book: Peter & Wendy, J.M Barrie
Publisher: Oxford Classics
Release Date: 1911
Rating: 4 stars
Some books will always remain classics. Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings. They will be remembered for years to come. So will Peter Pan. Most people know it as the 1956 Disney movie, which is what I knew it as too. Then I watched the 2003 real-life film, and Finding Neverland (the retelling of how Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan). Watching all those movies got me a little obsessed with Peter and the wonderful and exciting world of Neverland, where mermaids, pirates, Indians and the wonderful ability to fly are made real. Obviously I had no other choice but to buy the book and experience the real thing.
This complete edition shows clearly why J.M. Barrie was considered one of the great geniuses of English literature. While the writing is a little outdated (it was written over a hundred years ago) it’s still beautifully written and will capture your heart. It’s the perfect story of childhood fantasies and adult nostalgia.
It tells the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. For “all children grow up, except one.” He visits the Darling family every night to listen to Mrs. Darling tell stories to her three children, Wendy, John, and Michael. Then he goes back to Neverland to repeat the stories to the Lost Boys, (children which were separated from their parents). One night, Nana, the dog who is the children’s nanny, sees Peter’s shadow peeking in from the window and grabs it before he can get away. This, of course, gives Peter the perfect excuse to come into the children’s nursery with his fairy best friend Tinker Bell and search for his shadow, which Mrs. Darling had hidden away. When he finds it, being a boy, he cannot stick it back on. He gets upset and starts crying, which in turn wakes Wendy. She sews his shadow back on, and being a particularly forgetful and self-absorbed child, he disregards Wendy’s input and believes it was all his doing “Oh, the cleverness of me”. The two talk for a while and Peter tells Wendy all about Neverland, trying to lure her away where she’ll always be able to tell him stories. Wendy agrees, but only if her brothers come along too.
And so begins numerous adventures filled with pirates, Indians, and mermaids. Wendy becomes the boys’ mother, telling them stories and putting them to bed. It ironically makes her realize that she is ready to grow up. But between the adventures with Indians and mermaids, Captain James Hook, Peter’s archenemy, is planning his demise after Peter cut off his right arm and fed it to the crocodile. He captures the Lost Boys and Wendy, luring Peter into a final match to the death. Like all villains though, he doesn’t win. After taking control of his ship, Peter sails Wendy and her brothers’ home. But, after seeing what it was like to have their own mother, the Lost Boys want to grow up too.
Peter watches as all the children are reunited with their overjoyed parents, deciding that “to live will be an awfully big adventure.” However Wendy isn’t ready to say goodbye to Peter and they decide that she will go with him to Neverland for a week every spring. But Peter was a very forgetful boy, and came for Wendy very infrequently. Many years later he’s distraught to find that she has grown up without his permission. But a new tradition begins when he sees Wendy’s daughter Jane, sleeping in her bed. He takes her to Neverland with him instead with Wendy’s blessing and the same with Jane’s daughter, “and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.”
This book was a joy to read. It gives anybody, young or old, reasons to believe that the impossible is possible as long as you have “faith, trust and pixie dust.” I recommend Peter Pan to anybody as every now and then we need a reason to step into a land of make-believe. I know that I will always be looking out my window waiting for Peter Pan to come and take me to Neverland, as will anybody else who reads this book.