on 6 November 2011
This is a handsome keepsake book for devotees of Peter Pan and those who you would desire to be. This is more than the story of this boy who never grows up, it is the adventure behind the fantasy. J.M.Barrie was as fascinating a character himself, as his creation.
There are many period colour Illustrations in the book, programs, black and white period photos of Barrie and the Davies boys, productions, stage and film. We also read of the appeal of fairy dust and of flying.
Included is an introduction to Peter Pan and Barrie, the chapters on Peter and Wendy. Barrie's `The Boy Castaways of black Lake Island', his introduction to play Peter Pan, words on Arthur Rackham, including the not to be missed stature of Pan in Kensington Gardens, Barrie's scenario for a proposed film and a survey on Peter Pan in the cinema, adaptations, sequels and spin offs and the legacy of Peter Pan.
There are helpful footnotes throughout, no index; but a 10 page bibliography.
What a special Christmas present, or for another occasion this book would be; or as an addition for your own bookshelf. This is almost as complete a book as one could get on the subject of Peter Pan.
Everybody knows and loves Peter Pan -- the immortal, flying imp who lives in a floating otherworld, battles pirates, and never has to grow up.
And J.M. Barrie's classic tale "Peter Pan" really hasn't lost any of its charm, although those who have only seen the Disney movie may be shocked at how dark it can be at times. It's a strange, whimsical little story with a bittersweet edge, but Maria Tatar's annotations leave me wondering if an "annotated" Peter Pan is really necessary... despite all the goodies it's fleshed out with.
Young Wendy Darling is woken by a strange boy in her room, who has lost his shadow. That boy is Peter Pan, a flying boy from Neverland who regularly eavesdrops at her house because he likes the bedtime stories her mother tells. Since Wendy ALSO knows bedtime stories (and can potentially "make pockets"), Peter whisks Wendy and her brothers Michael and John off to Neverland.
However, Neverland is not a place devoid of dangers -- there is a pirate ship there (don't as me how; if it's explained, I don't remember), led by the villainous Captain Hook. Hook is constantly trying to kill Peter and his Lost Boys, and it doesn't take long for Wendy and the other boys to be captured. Can Peter save them from his archnemesis?
Children are "innocent and heartless" by nature, and it feels like "Peter Pan" was a homage to that -- it's a childish romp in a fantasyland, where kids can fly, fight pirates and have strange little adventures. Nobody really thinks about the families that are undoubtedly freaking out, or the lives they'll miss out on.
And really, that's part of its charm. It's a fluffy little fantasy story that could have been transcribed out of any child's imagination, with a colorful array of characters who could have been taken out of a Victorian kid's imaginary games (mermaids I understand, but why are there American Indians here? HOW did they get there?).
And Barrie spins out this story in the slightly twee style of Victorian kids' fiction, with lots of details and some charming scenes (the Lost Boys actually build a house AROUND WENDY). It gets a little cutesy at times (fairies are generated by.... baby laughter?) and the handling of the Indians is just horrible, but otherwise it's a fairly charming book.
But it's also darker than you would expect -- Tinkerbell tricks the Lost Boys into trying to kill Wendy, and at first it looks like she's managed. And Peter almost DIES. For real. Not to mention the final chapter, which is a giant lump of bittersweet.
Peter himself is a strangely enchanting figure -- he's almost like a lost Greek god, with a capricious ever-changing nature. And no matter what, you can never catch him or pin him down. As such, most of the other characters don't quite stand out as much, but they're all pleasantly handled -- particularly the three "normal" kids who are all too happy to go to Neverland, until they feel like going home again.
And since the original book is so skinny, the annotated edition actually is the book equivalent of a 2-disk DVD release. It has a whole photo album of the original lost boys scampering around and exploring, JM Barrie's introduction to the play, an essay on Arthur Rackham, another one on his illustrations for "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens," biographical essays on Barrie, a collection of Rackham's gorgeous illustrations (and not just for Peter Pan!), Barrie's film pitch, a long illustrated essay on the film history of "Peter Pan," and finally a bunch of critical and/or fan opinions.
With all that extra material, the annotation seems kind of like an afterthought. Maria Tatar seems to be straining to give extra meaning to everything in this simple, straightforward book. Some of her annotations are necessary ("cozening") and some are definitely NOT ("For Peter, everything becomes a game" -- thanks, we couldn't tell from the TEXT).
"Peter Pan" takes you briefly back into the experience of being a small child, when you can easily imagine yourself going anywhere at all while still staying "innocent and heartless." It has some flaws, but is charming nonetheless.