What Maisie Knew

Henry James, read by Maureen O’Brien
Henry James, read by Maureen O’Brien. AudioGO, library edition, unabridged, eight CDs, 10 hrs., $49.95 ISBN 978-0-7927-8990-1
Reviewed on: 11/26/2012
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Young Maisie Farange finds herself the unwitting pawn in her parents’ divorce, as her mother and father use her as a tool for personal attacks. As both parents find new romantic partners, Maisie, who is mature beyond her age, is thrust even further into an adult world of betrayal and sexual gamesmanship. In this audio edition, Maureen O’Brien delivers a standout performance of James’s classic novella. Even for audiences who might not enjoy James’s prose, O’Brien’s narration is both gripping and suitably melancholy. She captures the boiling anger of the adult world, as well as Maisie’s sadness and confusion. Maisie’s relationship with her governess Mrs. Wix, the sole point of emotional consistency in the young girl’s life, is particularly poignant, thanks to O’Brien’s reading. Though there’s relatively little dialogue in James’s work—most of the action takes place through narration, filtered through Maisie’s point of view—O’Brien excels at creating unique personalities for the different characters. Her Maisie, in particular, sounds like a child—intelligent but also extremely vulnerable. (June)
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