Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peter Pan (James M. Barrie)

Peter Pan
James M. Barrie
Project Gutenberg - Public Domain Books
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Wendy, John, and Michael Darling knew of Peter Pan long before they saw him. A wisp of dream, a half-forgotten cradle song about a boy who refused to grow up... but those were just stories. The boy who flew through the nursery window, leaving his shadow behind for Mrs. Darling to find, is real. Try as their parents and faithful nanny, the dog Nana, might, Peter won't stay away. Soon, he convinces the Darling children to fly away with him to Neverland, a world forged of adventure and imagination. Pirates and fairies and mermaids and more... every day in Neverland brings a new story to tell. But soon Wendy starts to wonder when - or even if - Peter will let them return home.

REVIEW: This was a free e-book download from Project Gutenberg, which claims to be "created in the United States of America from a comparison of various editions determined by age to be in the Public Domain in the United States." Whatever that means... In any event, I'm acting under the presumption that this is a faithful rendition of the original text. Considering the age, the overall story holds up decently, even if some glaring stereotypes (girls doing nothing but darning socks and wanting babies, "redskin" savages, etc.) and archaic language date it. Peter comes across as far less of a benevolent playmate than an oddly inhuman captor, an immature demigod who proves as much a danger as a protector of the Darlings and the Lost Boys. As sad as it seems to know that children must grow up, Peter himself seems even sadder, forever denied the love of a family by his own nature. His story isn't the only disturbing subtext beneath Neverland; Barrie recognizes the dark side of childhood and imagination at several points. The story moves fairly well, though the characters tend to the exaggerated and goofy, even the pirate crew of Captain Hook. I almost gave this a solid Good rating, if only because the other books I'm currently reading (save the Animorphs reread) have tended toward the dull and dismal. In the end, though, the goofiness and the annoying intrusions of the narrator kept it down.

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