I begin to think of this as the blog past that never grew up. I have been working on it for over a week, nibbling away at it a paragraph at a time. I never set out to binge-read Peter Pan. I was looking through the To Be Read pile for my next book, and pulled out Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet
, the authorised sequel. I don't think this had anything to do with the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland
, which I have not seen; it has been heavily trailed, so I might have made a subconscious connection, but I'd have thought that was more likely to put me off the subject than to attract me. I'd bought the book in a charity shop out of 90% admiration for McCaughrean's The White Darkness
, 10% curiosity: how do you write a sequel to Peter Pan
, and what's more, one which will please Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, who commissioned the competition by which McCaughrean was chosen for the task?( Rambling (at inordinate length) )
I stumbled into this exploration of Neverland inadvertently, thinking that I wasn't particularly interested in Peter Pan himself. I wondered whether his continuing presence in literary culture owed as much to the bequest which makes him synonymous with helping sick children (and you couldn't not want to do that, could you)? And no doubt that's part of his power. Perhaps the development of the myth through the book, the play, the another book, (maybe even the film), not, like King Arthur, through the many hands of the ages but always in the words of one man, adds to its strength. There's something about the way Barrie tells his story (and I'm thinking particularly of the Peter and Wendy
novel, here), narrating a story about children rather than a story for children, in the voice of an adult entranced but also amused by his subject. He sees the charm of Neverland, but he knows that only Peter can live there for ever, and that Peter is neither entirely admirable nor entirely happy. Is it Barrie's fault if careless readers do not notice this?
While I have been wandering in Neverland, the story has started following me around. It started with an album of bandes dessinées
, bought I forget when, in a secondhand shop I forget where, coming to the surface now and demanding to be read: A la recherche de Pater Pan
by Cosey (otherwise unknown to me). It is set in the Alps of the Valais, in the late 1920s, and it devotes its efforts to a gorgeous and well-documented depiction of the way of life of that place and time. The central figure is a tourist from England, a (blocked) novelist who claims to be obsessed with Peter Pan, having been given the book as a child, by his brother. 'The book', according to its cover, is both Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
and Peter Pan and Wendy
. I'm not going to quibble about this: Cosey thinks that Barrie was an "auteur anglais
", this isn't about factual accuracy. Quite late in the book, the title is explained: it's the novelist's reply to the question, what will your next book be called? And he reflects that he associates his brother, at some level, with Peter Pan. There doesn't seem to be any actual basis for this, in what I read, but this is only volume one of two: perhaps all will become clear in the second half of the story. I'd buy it, anyway, if I ever sw a copy.
Next, thinking I had left Peter Pan behind me, I read The Lost: the Dark Ground
by Gillian Cross, the first book of a trilogy which J. had loaned to me. I'm saying as little as possible about this one, because it's a terrific book and one of the great things about it is the way the story gradually unfolds and keeps you guessing. Also, book one of a trilogy, so I could say things on the basis of what I know now that were completely wrong. But, quite a long way through the book, it occurred to me that 'the Lost' echoes (in my head, if nowhere else) with the Lost Boys in their home under the ground in Neverland. So I hadn't entirely got away from Peter Pan yet.
Finally, putting together my comics order for the next month, I came across The Wendy Project
, and was delighted that someone had decided to put Wendy at the centre of the story. (Not to mention Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's The Lost Girls
- no, let's not mention that.) Edited, 24.4.19, to add
that Melissa Jane Osborne and Veronica Fish's The Wendy Project
turns out to be completely charming: 16 year-old Wendy (Davies, not Darling) crashes her car into a lake, causing the death of her backseat passenger, her younger brother Michael (this being the USA, there is no suggestion that this is in any way illegal or abnormal). With the help of her counsellor / therapist, the belatedly named Dr Barrie, who askes her to make a sketch book of her feelings, she works her way through denial and grief (and Neverland) to acceptance and moving on. That's a SPOILER! but you never doubt she will: the question is how, and at what cost. The surprise is how close a reading of Peter Pan this entails, with generous use of quotations, and textual allusions (Tinker Bell / Jenny Wren causes Tootles to shoot down the Wendy Bird, for example, and I was delighted to note a flamingo by the shore of Michael's lagoon...) Lovely art by Veronoca Fish, with day to day life in monochrome, but Neverland breaking through in glorious colour.