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Extended Audio Sample What Maisie Knew Audiobook, by Henry James Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,585 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Henry James Narrator: Lorna Raver Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2012 ISBN: 9781470804695
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In this classic tale of the death of childhood, there is a savage comedy that owes much to Dickens. But for his portrayal of the child’s capacity for intelligent wonder, James summons all the subtlety he devotes elsewhere to his most celebrated adult protagonists.

In the aftermath of an acrimonious divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself shuttled back and forth between her father and mother and their new spouses, all of whom are monstrously self-involved. Neglected and exploited by everyone around her, Maisie herself becomes a pretext for sexual intrigue when her stepparents become attracted to each other. As Maisie opens her young eyes on this distinctly modern world, the death of her childhood provides Henry James with a vehicle for scathing social satire.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Reading Henry James is like putting a new faculty to the test. This is the true morality.”

    Anita Brookner, Booker Prize–winning novelist

  • Maisie embodies everything that James excelled at in fiction.”

    Paul Theroux

  • “The novel’s perspective faithfully aligns itself to Maisie’s thoughts, showing, on the one hand, the ironic comedy of the interactions of the self-involved adults and, on the other, restless, hyperalert Maisie’s shrewd assessment of those interactions…James’ old-fashioned commitment to the pursuit of verisimilitude meets with his growing interest in the area of consciousness to create a unique character in Maisie.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “A technical tour de force depicting a sentient adolescent girl against a context of self-righteous parental failure and sexual irregularity…Not to be missed.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gill Arbuthnott | 2/13/2014

    " How can a book in which so very little happens be so absorbing? I love Henry James! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Justin Evans | 2/10/2014

    " I didn't expect this to be so funny- like a drawing room comedy. Then you think, wait, is it still funny when one of the main characters is a young girl? And then you think, wait, is she clueless or just completely and utterly starving for love? And I'm not sure that was ever resolved. Would you rather live with people who use you for their own sexual ends, or a person who uses you for her own messed up moral ends? Funny, and then suddenly really, really sad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jo | 2/7/2014

    " A book every social worker should read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kat | 2/5/2014

    " This was my second time through this gem; I can't possibly have appreciated it the first time! James was way ahead of his time in examining the fate of Maisie, whose parents are divorced. The greatest triumph of the book is the delicate and perfectly done consciousness of Maisie as she shapes herself to survive her unusual circumstances and grows in understanding of what is in fact going on around her. To fully appreciate what transpires it would be well to keep in mind the scandal that attached to divorce, perhaps especially in England, at the time the novel takes place; how unfit it rendered all it touched for society with the respectable upper crust. The ending of the novel is, I believe, less ambiguous than most of James's novels, but not less satisfying. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristiana | 2/5/2014

    " Great, great story. Really tough read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jillian | 2/4/2014

    " I made it a little more than halfway through this and then became too bored with the characters to care what happened to this little girl. I love Henry James but this did nothing for me. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Gavin | 2/3/2014

    " infuriating and tedious. eventually gave up after 150 pages. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Craig | 1/29/2014

    " This work told many stories, most of them about Maisie. There were only a few times where I reread sentences for comprehension. Sentence rereads were common for simmple enjoyment. James writes with a fluency of style and description. What Maisie Knew felt very psychological until the end where physicality plays a minor role. Maisie is physically and pyschologically confused, moved, and fought over by individuals motivated by much that is not to her benefit. All described by an apt and eloquent author. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emmapettitt | 1/26/2014

    " Having finally got round to reading Portrait of a Lady - and having loved it, I picked up What Maisie Knew with high expectations... so I was disappointed to find it hard to get through and a bit of a bore. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Al | 1/25/2014

    " I had high hopes for this Henry James novel but it did not capture me at all. Perhaps as a short story or novella it might have worked better. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 SmarterLilac | 1/25/2014

    " Probably my favorite James novel so far. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Niree | 1/24/2014

    " Difficult to get through at times, but interesting premise and well-executed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christina rae | 1/22/2014

    " Not something I would usually pick up, but very glad it made the list in one of my courses. Strong writing, great portrayl to the perspective of a child at age 5/6. Maisie Is such a memorable character and it is so neat to see her grow up so quickly and become her own person. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul | 1/22/2014

    " Well, I told myself to review more of my 5 star books instead of taking the easy way out projectile sneering at some grisly two star efforts. but it's hard. There are some brilliant Henry James reviews dotted around, and this won't be one of those. I think there's a point in some of these long, long literary careers (it's true of long musical careers too) where you've followed the writer out of the early period into the majestic middle period and you know the late period is going to give you a migraine, and there are a couple of books in the middle period in which everything comes right, the focus, the point of it all (what's he actually on about? Ah yes, I see!!) and for me What Maisie Knew is HJ gambolling and turning handsprings and summersets in the brilliant July sunshine before the dementia of subjunctive clausitis set in for good and they took him away and you could only see him on Tuesday afternoons and then only if you didn't speak. So sad. Give the old fellow a bun and some typewriter ribbon. HJ had this filtered-point-of-view thing, he banged on about that for his entire career, and here he filters viciousness through innocence, Maisie's rebarbative parents and their sophisticated internecine wars conducted through the medium of their little daughter's hapless life. It's brilliantly upsetting, much more so than any number of Dickens' pathetic put-upon Little Dorrits and Little Olivers and Little Miss Dombeys. Not to badmouth Dickens, you can't, it's actually illegal, but you don't go to CD for psychological finesse, you come to Henry James. In my humble opinion you can stuff your Portrait of a Lady, that one's an unaccountably popular turkey. What Maisie Knew is second only to The Turn of the Screw in the HJ all time Top Ten, and that's just the simple truth. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mariola Clark | 1/21/2014

    " This was the best Henry James book I have ever read but because i have read 2 and the ambassordors was horrid that doesn't mean much. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Al | 1/20/2014

    " I had high hopes for this Henry James novel but it did not capture me at all. Perhaps as a short story or novella it might have worked better. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mo | 1/19/2014

    " I actually felt like this was one of James' more "accessible" novels, but I could just be insane... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rachel Willis | 1/19/2014

    " I couldn't finish this; I thought it was boring. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Caitlin Kelly | 1/14/2014

    " I think I would have hated this book if I had simply tried to read it; the language is impossibly dense and unnecessarily wordy more often than not. But I listened to it instead and found an appreciation for it. There were laugh-out-loud funny moments and some incredibly sad moments I found myself following on the page just to get the most of the experience. It was incredibly soap opera-esque, but that just intrigued me more than anything. What does a 19th century soap opera look like? Clearly the answer is Maisie's life. On the whole I enjoyed it, though would have enjoyed it more if it didn't seem to actively try to obscure the meaning of passages with nigh-unreadable prose. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eva | 1/7/2014

    " Wow, this is a change for James. I suppose the theme is related to his common topic of loss of naivety, but to use a child's perspective is novel. How tragic, to think of the damage done to a child's life values by the poor examples of both private and public virtue. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sean | 1/6/2014

    " Very interesting experiment in point of view. While some critics argue that Maisie is not a fully round character, I thought she was. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Al | 1/1/2014

    " I had high hopes for this Henry James novel but it did not capture me at all. Perhaps as a short story or novella it might have worked better. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Helen | 12/25/2013

    " This is quite a story. I think it should be required reading for parents who are in custody battles over their children. First published in 1897, it is hard to believe that it isn't a completely modern story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Florencia | 12/24/2013

    " Henry James was one of my phases. I read everything I could for a while, but mostly his shorter novels and stories. I loved how he would suggest, but would not say. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Max | 12/23/2013

    " It's brilliant, he's brilliant, but it loses steam at the end. The last hundred pages or so are a little aimless. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie Walsh | 12/21/2013

    " Interesting, to be sure, and surprisingly relevant. However that doesn't stop it from being convoluted, the sentence structure from being absurd, and everyone from being pretty despicable; including Maisie at times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jo | 12/13/2013

    " A book every social worker should read! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Maicie | 12/12/2013

    " Couldn't finish. Yeah, I know, it's Henry James. But deciphering the language distracted from the story. It may be written in English but it's not my English. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elizabeth | 11/29/2013

    " I am starting to fear I am not clever enough for Henry James. What exactly did Maisie know? I know what I know about the passel of a-holes that passed for adults in her life, but her thoughts remain something of a mystery. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jen | 11/29/2013

    " Man, and we think divorces NOW are bad. This poor child completely forgotten in a custody battle is before its time. James is amazing at telling us about her loss. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jen | 11/26/2013

    " Man, and we think divorces NOW are bad. This poor child completely forgotten in a custody battle is before its time. James is amazing at telling us about her loss. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alice Handley | 11/24/2013

    " James is a lot better when he lightens up a bit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie Bailey | 11/22/2013

    " i got this book cause the copy i got at a used bookstore had an Edward Gorey cover. It was actually a pretty sweet book, a study in the manias of divorced parents from 1897. turns out maisie knows some shit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 10/23/2013

    " This was a good book, despite the convoluted writing. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Laima | 10/22/2013

    " This book had a serious case of verbal diarrhea. Sentences ran on and on to the point where I lost my train of thought. No can do - finishing this book would drain my brain - torture. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kristopher Jansma | 10/20/2013

    " I've long been wondering if I would like this book. It always sounds so interesting in essays, how James tells this adult story through the eyes of a small child and blah blah blah. Verdict? I still don't like Henry James. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aaron Records | 8/12/2013

    " One of Henry James's psychological masterpieces. I wouldn't read it twice, but it does give keen insight into the plight of a child with divorced parents in Victorian England. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 8/8/2013

    " People are nasty, but Henry James is clever. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jennifer | 7/12/2013

    " The topic of this book would certainly be as relevant today as it was when James lived -- the effect that divorce and manipulating, selfish parents can have on a child. But the characters were never really fully developed. I also find James' prose cumbersome and not easy to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emmapettitt | 1/26/2013

    " Having finally got round to reading Portrait of a Lady - and having loved it, I picked up What Maisie Knew with high expectations... so I was disappointed to find it hard to get through and a bit of a bore. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lisa | 11/16/2012

    " I read quite a bit of classic literature so I didn't have a problem with the writing style of the book. I just couldn't feel for the character of Maisie so it was very difficult to get even half way through this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 PMP | 10/25/2012

    " We read this in our class on "Death, Disease and Disaster". "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 10/8/2012

    " This was a good book, despite the convoluted writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 SmarterLilac | 10/2/2012

    " Probably my favorite James novel so far. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kristopher Jansma | 9/30/2012

    " I've long been wondering if I would like this book. It always sounds so interesting in essays, how James tells this adult story through the eyes of a small child and blah blah blah. Verdict? I still don't like Henry James. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gill Arbuthnott | 8/12/2012

    " How can a book in which so very little happens be so absorbing? I love Henry James! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 8/10/2012

    " multivalent, enigmatic and fascinating. This was my introduction to Henry James--unforgettable. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joshua | 7/23/2012

    " Beautiful book about an innocent child who can't quite recognize the venom of her parents' divorce. Henry James may well be an elephant chasing a pea, but he's a nimble elephant indeed. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jillian | 7/21/2012

    " I made it a little more than halfway through this and then became too bored with the characters to care what happened to this little girl. I love Henry James but this did nothing for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nick Jones | 6/13/2012

    " I've avoided Henry James for years, fearing tedium and long, involved sentences. But this is a very concise, ttight little book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susie Wilde | 6/12/2012

    " first book I read with a plausible child narrator "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cara | 3/25/2012

    " I really like Henry James and would definitely pick up some more of his books. Daisy Miller was okay, but What Maisie Knew is such a sad story I couldn't help but like it. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Gavin | 2/11/2012

    " infuriating and tedious. eventually gave up after 150 pages. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rachel Willis | 1/13/2012

    " I couldn't finish this; I thought it was boring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bethany | 12/5/2011

    " A puzzle for many of the first 10 times I read it. It is so devastating, though, so sweetly awful, as must be much of the world seen through a child's eyes. Oddly contemporary. And of course, James and his 10 page paragraphs alternately delight me and KILL me. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Nikki Ticzon | 10/7/2011

    " This book moved way too slow or my liking. Others have said this is James' example of a perfect book, but I don't see it. The plot moved too slowly and the characters are extremely flat, with the exception of Maisie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susie Wilde | 7/22/2011

    " first book I read with a plausible child narrator "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Todd | 6/22/2011

    " If you hate paragraph breaks, you will love this book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Gavin | 5/11/2011

    " infuriating and tedious. eventually gave up after 150 pages. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 4/16/2011

    " This was a good book, despite the convoluted writing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kirsten | 4/4/2011

    " Despicable story line but enjoyed James' writing as always. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gill | 1/12/2011

    " How can a book in which so very little happens be so absorbing? I love Henry James! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 1/6/2011

    " Interesting, to be sure, and surprisingly relevant. However that doesn't stop it from being convoluted, the sentence structure from being absurd, and everyone from being pretty despicable; including Maisie at times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa | 12/26/2010

    " A very small book, tracing the impact of her parents divorce on Maisie. They think their arrangements are 'civilised'; her reality is something different. She's the only one with any dignity. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenny | 12/22/2010

    " The prose is a bit hard to understand, even for James. Although I applaud him for delving so deeply into the mindset of a child. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Helen | 11/27/2010

    " This is quite a story. I think it should be required reading for parents who are in custody battles over their children. First published in 1897, it is hard to believe that it isn't a completely modern story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris | 9/3/2010

    " Not something I would usually pick up, but very glad it made the list in one of my courses. Strong writing, great portrayl to the perspective of a child at age 5/6. Maisie Is such a memorable character and it is so neat to see her grow up so quickly and become her own person. "

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About the Author
Author Henry James

Henry James (1843–1916), American novelist, short-story writer, and man of letters, was born in Washington Place, New York, to a family of distinguished philosophers and theologians. He attended schools in New York, Boston, and throughout Europe, where he later settled. A major figure in the history of the novel, he is celebrated as a master craftsman who brought his great art and impeccable technique to bear in the development of abiding moral themes.

About the Narrator

Lorna Raver, named one of AudioFile magazine’s Best Voices of the Year, has received numerous Audie Award nominations and fourteen AudioFile Earphones Awards. An experienced stage actress, she has also guest-starred on many top television series and starred in director Sam Raimi’s film Drag Me to Hell. Her numerous audiobook credits include The Age of Innocence, Up from Orchard Street, The Lodger, Selected Readings from the Portable Dorothy Parker, and Diamond Ruby.