Hands up if you’ve watched Walt Disney’s Peter Pan but never read JM Barrie’s original story.
For most of us, the boy who never grew up leaps off the screen rather than the page.
Shame – you’re missing a treat because the film doesn’t do justice to the quirky characters or Barrie’s snarky narrative.
The story began life in 1904 as a stage play, Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
Barrie developed it into a novel, published in 1911, as Peter Pan: Peter and Wendy.
It’s a delicious mixture of the fantastic and the ordinary – which means it can be enjoyed on different levels by adults and children alike.
Yes, it’s fantastic that Peter should spend his days battling pirates and Red Indians and his nights flying across the skies to sit playing his pipes on the end of Wendy’s bed.
Nana: the canine nurse
But the shadow he leaves behind when Nana the nurse almost catches him in the children’s bedroom is ‘quite the ordinary kind’.
And though Mrs Darling hangs it out of the window, so Peter can get it back without disturbing the children, she has to bring it in because it looks ‘so like the washing and lowers the whole tone of the house’.
The canine nurse too: a prim Newfoundland dog, who joins the other nurses in the basement room of Miss Fulsom’s school to wait for their charges to finish lessons.
The other nurses sit on forms while Nana lies on the floor.
They ‘affect’ to ignore her because of her inferior social status.
Laugh out loud
And she ‘despises their light talk’.
Not quite laugh out loud funny, but close.
But there’s a darker side too.
Mr Darling’s worries about the family finances, for instance, as well as Hook’s murderous tendencies not just towards any member of his pirate crew who offends him, but also the Red Indians and the Lost Children, in general, and Peter Pan, in particular.
And there’s something very sad, and wise too, about the realisation by an infant Wendy on the opening page that: ‘Two is the beginning of the end.’
A gem of a book that cries out to be read with a child tucked under each arm and a couple curled up on your lap.
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Peter Pan is available to buy on Amazon.