Peter Pan and Wendy – J.M. Barrie
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., Unknown
Yes, I really have never read Peter Pan before, or seen the Disney adaptation. I knew some of the famous quotes, of course – ‘second to the right and then straight on ’til morning’ – and have read about Barrie’s life, but this is the first time I have tried the actual novel. The edition I read is a beautiful old hardback so old that it has no date of publication inside. It would feel almost rude not to like a book that looks so venerable.
The three Darling children have often dreamed of Neverland, a place on the edge of their imaginations, but when a strange boy arrives in their room one night and wakes Wendy by searching for his lost shadow, they are whisked away to Neverland made real – a place of gleaming lagoons, tempestuous fairies and endless adventures. For the boy is Peter Pan, the child who ran away to live with the fairies and refuses to ever grow up. Neverland is his home. Unfortunately, it is also home to the wicked pirate Captain Hook, who is determined to rid himself of Peter’s frustrating existence once and for all, and has just discovered the perfect way to do it…
It is a strange beast, this book. There is a beautiful lyricism to the style of writing, many of the characters are complex and unpredictable, and it is overflowing with the brilliantly mad ideas that characterise classic fantasy. I enjoyed it very much. At the same time, though, I’m glad I didn’t read this as a child, because it would have broken my heart into little pieces. The ending is for adults, more bitter than sweet. The casual sexism and racism are also, while unsurprising is the context of Barrie’s time, jarring to me as a modern reader. All the same, there is a reason this book is so beloved as a classic. Who could not love the rakishly world-weary Captain Hook, the feisty fashion-conscious diva that is Tinker Bell, and transport via trees?