Thursday, 25 February 2016

Peter Pan (Classic #1)

This review contains spoilers.

The Darling children are tucked up in bed when Peter Pan bursts in to their nursery.  Peter and his mischievous fairy Tinker Bell entice Wendy and her brothers to fly away with them to a magical world called Neverland.  There you can swim with mermaids and play all day with the Lost Boys.  But you must watch out for pirates, especially Captain Hook.  And how do you find Neverland?  Second to the right and straight on till morning of course.

Rating: ★★

My first read for the 2016 Classics Challenge was Peter Pan by J.M Barrie.  I really want to combine the challenge with my goal to read more children's literature and Peter Pan was high up on my list. I'm already very familiar with the story, but I thought it was high time I read the original book, already pretty sure that I would love it.

I couldn't have been more disappointed!   I didn't love it at all.  I was expecting a light and fluffy adventure story with lots of magic and excitement; what I got was a very dark tale about some really horrible children.  I knew the Lost Boys were supposed to be a little rough around the edges but I wasn't expecting them to be quite so bloodthirsty!  The book is peppered throughout with graphic descriptions of death and violence that seemed inappropriate given the target audience.  I couldn't particularly get along with any of the characters - Wendy was annoying (though to be fair, she is in the film too), there's not a single likeable thing about Peter, and the rest of the characters just didn't really interest me.

Peter Pan was actually quite a disturbing read and generally left a bad taste in my mouth.  I didn't like the casual attitude to violence but bloodshed aside, there were lots of other things that troubled me about it - can we talk about the scene where Peter threatens to expose Tinkerbell in her underwear for refusing to guide Wendy home?  The narrator also cuts into the story a lot and I thought he was a very harsh and judgemental voice for a children's book - he makes a lot of quite nasty comments about children, and seemed particularly disgusted with women.  In fact, the whole book carries a very misogynistic message.

The writing was very disjointed and the constant interjections from the narrator made it quite a chore to read.  To me a lot of the language seemed like it might be quite difficult for younger readers and given this along with everything else, I'm not sure it's actually suitable for children.  It has all the elements of a fairytale but there's nothing nice about it.

Overall, not a very positive start to my Classics Challenge.  Hopefully I'll have better luck with the next one!  Have you read Peter Pan?  A lot of people seem to see something in it that I didn't - I'd love to know your thoughts!

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