Review: Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie

It’s been 100 years since Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie was first published, so it seemed only appropriate that I finally get around to reading this children’s classic with Amber (11). I knew the basic story, mainly from the Disney movie, and Peter Pan is just as daring and fun as I pictured, but for me the movie wins.

Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up, lives in Neverland but visits London occasionally and it is during one of those visits that he meets the Darling children and eventually whisks them off to Neverland to live with the Lost Boys, Peter’s tribe of children. Wendy is to be their mother. Of course in a land of Indians and mermaids, fairies and pirates, adventures abound.

The sad part is that some kids books I just don’t get. They should be magical and light-hearted, but to me this one just fell flat. The writing is beautiful, if a little dated, but I wasn’t transported. As a matter of fact I found it kind of odd. I can overlook the fact that it’s not necessarily politically correct, but the fascination with Wendy being the boys’ mother just disturbed me. I could understand the boys wanting a mother to take care of them and tell them stories, but she was a child herself, and she was almost obsessed with darning and bedtimes and making sure they took their “medicine,” actually water. And then there’s the part where Peter Pan for a time is “father” even though he doesn’t really want to be. Tinkerbell, clearly romantically interested in Peter, almost manages to get the Lost Boys to try to kill Wendy. Oh, and then the great fight scene with the pirates. The boys kill the pirates, one by one, with one of the less brave boys keeping the count. It’s a strange book, darker than I expected. The ending did leave me with a lump in my throat, though.

I guess maybe I’m just too much of a grown-up. After all, “it is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly.”

Generations of children and adults alike have delighted in this book, have fallen in love with Peter. I’m just not one of them. If, however, you would like to meet this eternal youth, or introduce your children to him, there is a new Centennial Edition. I haven’t seen it myself, but it sounds like it has the story with annotations, lots of background material and tons of photos and illustrations. I bet it would make a nice gift for a good many readers.

3 out of 5 stars

Category: Childrens- Classic

First published 1911

Purchase at Amazon or an Indie bookstore.

Book source: Personal library

 

11 Comments

  1. I’m one who was always charmed by the story; I never considered its oddities until starting reading reviews as an adult. I think I’d still find it charming, if just for the nostalgia factor. The annotated edition looks like something I’d like to get my hands on, too!

  2. TBM

    I haven’t read this one yet but it is on my list for this year. I found the statue of Peter Pan in Hyde Park. From what I understand the statue is placed near where Barrie saw the little boy who was his inspiration. I’ll let you know what I think of the book when I read it.

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