Review: Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie

peterpanQuite shamefully, this is another children’s classic I’ve never read. As I’ve got in to my 20s, and friends are having babies, I’m realising how woefully deprived of children’s classics I was when I was little. It wasn’t that I didn’t read, or wasn’t read to, but that I seem to have jumped from The Gruffalo to Harry Potter with nothing much in between. So I set out to remedy this and added Peter Pan to my Christmas list. I was lucky enough that Santa brought me the beautiful Puffin Chalk edition (along with Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz from the same series) and I settled down Christmas Day to make a start on this.

I do, once again, have to just gush momentarily for the beauty of Penguin/Puffin publishing. I adore their reissues of classics. The Puffin Chalk series are all absolutely beautiful and have decaled edges and just feel so beautiful in your hands. I’m in no way sponsored by Penguin (if only!) but I just love their publishing.

On to the book. It’s not a story I’m actually particularly familiar with. Truthfully, I’ve never even seen the Disney movie! So I went in to this story pretty much blind. I thought it was going to be a sweet tale as from what little I do know it appeared to be a lovely story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enchanting and whimsical and perfectly lovely but in the same breath it’s really quite sinister. There is a lot of violence; I’m not sure how many parents would appreciate the unapologetic violence that is present in this book truthfully. Then there’s the misogyny – which though woefully period accurate – seems to be quite a bit heavier in places than in other books from this time frame. It made me a cringe in places. When there is such blatant sexism, I do find it hard to put it aside and enjoy the story that I’m reading.

But, it absolutely has to be said, it is a beautiful story. A story of flying and mermaids and all the innocence that childhood entails. All the things I was expecting in this book were present, just not quite in the way I expected them to be! Neverland is one of the most wonderful places in fiction (save for the Pirates). It’s written with such whimsy and delicacy the writing itself is a pleasure. There are some wonderful metaphors and explanations to things; it’s just magical.

My main issue was the characters. Peter was a manipulative, cocky brat. Tinker Bell was a jealous, spiteful little madam. Wendy was a wet blanket. The Lost Boys were just blah. It just really didn’t inspire me, or make me want to know more about them. Yeah, the characters were not all that great.

I think a lot of people assume that the Disney adaptation is an accurate retelling of the book, but from what I have seen of the movie since I began reading this (snippets here and there) it’s really not all that similar. The adaptation seems far more sugar coated.

Overall, the writing style won out for me in this one. The story itself was good, in spite of sexism and poor characters, this was mainly because the writing itself was just charming. I’m glad I read it, but it isn’t a children’s classic I’ll be in a hurry to reread any time soon! 3/5

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