One of James’ comic masterpieces, despite its corrupt atmosphere of divorce and adultery, What Maisie Knew represents one of James's finest reflections on the rites of passage from wonder to knowledge, and the question of their finality.
The child of violently divorced parents, Maisie Farange opens her eyes on a distinctly modern world. Mothers and fathers keep changing their partners and names, while she herself becomes the pretext for all sorts of adult sexual intrigue. 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. Neglected and exploited by everyone around her, Maisie inspires James to dwell with extraordinary acuteness on the things that may pass between adult and child.