Happy Hump Day,
Today I’ll review J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. I’ve been planning to read this book for ages and now that I’ve bought the beautiful Puffin Chalk edition with rough cut (oh I love rough cut), I finally felt ready to do so. First off, I have to admit that I’m heavily biased by Disney’s 1953 animated film Peter Pan, so reading the original came as a shock. But see for yourself.
Synopsis quoted from Penguin US¹:
One starry night, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell lead the three Darling children over the rooftops of London and away to Neverland–the island where lost boys play, mermaids splash and fairies make mischief. But a villainous-looking gang of pirates lurk in the docks, led by the terrifying Captain James Hook. Magic and excitement are in the air, but if Captain Hook has his way, before long, someone will be walking the plank and swimming with the crocodiles…
As we all know, Peter Pan is set in London and Neverland. Neverland is a special place that looks different for every child. Barrie compares its map to the map of a child’s mind. As far as setting goes, the description of Neverland is the most outstanding part of this novel. I also like how Barrie writes about the Lost Boys having to find the right hollow tree stump as a personal entryway into their underground home.
But now, the truth will be revealed: Our main character, famous Peter Pan, is an unlikeable, selfish fellow. I really came to hate him. And Wendy isn’t much better, because she just doesn’t get that Peter is using her. She is a very naive little girl who desperately wants to be a wife and a mother. The only characters I did like are the Lost Boys. They are a lot of fun to be around and remind me of a real bunch of boys quarrelling and having fun. Of course, all this doesn’t mean that J. M. Barrie was a bad writer, it just means that I grew up with a different version of Peter Pan and it’s hard for me to adjust to the harsh reality.
The first half of Peter Pan actually is so boring I was thinking of quitting the book. I am, however, not a quitter, so I read on and it did get better. You should know that this book is very different from what you see in the 1953 Disney movie. Neverland isn’t a shiny happy place with a couple of silly pirates causing trouble. It’s cruel. And Peter is too. So don’t read this book to small children. What Peter Pan does is, it gives a good impression of late 19th, early 20th century views on women and of what was expected of little boys and girls. So read it if you are interested in that, or if you want to score more points on all those 100-books-you-should-read lists.