Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Neverland: J.M. Barrie, the du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan by Piers Dudgeon - Book 70, 2009

Title: Neverland: J.M. Barrie, the du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan by Piers Dudgeon
Genre: Biography
Rating: 8/10
Comments: Once you read this book, you will never be able to see Peter Pan in the same way again.  Few people realise that the initial story was much darker and definitely not for children. Subtitled "The Boy Who Hated Mothers", the original demon-child Peter Pan spirited children away in the night and changed sides in the fight with the pirates of Neverland.  But somehow it evolved into a much lighter child-friendly pantomime when staged and this is the story we all know and love today.

I'm going to put in links to some very good articles about this book because it is way too complex to cover in a mere plot summary.

An obsessive stalker, an impotent husband, a lover of young boys... to some, the creator of 'Peter Pan' was an evil genius; to others, a misunderstood ingenue.
  Justine Picardie, The Telegraph, 13 July 2008

Piers Dudgeon definitely falls in the "evil genius" camp, seizing on a poignant phrase by writer DH Lawrence who upon hearing of one of Barrie's charges' deaths: "J. M Barrie has a fatal touch for those he loves. They die."

Warped since childhood following the death of his favoured brother (that he may or may not have been involved in) & rejection by his mother, J.M. Barrie was by all accounts an unusual and lonely hero-worshipper who created a fantasy life for himself and sought the company of children over adults. According to Dudgeon he had a malevolent impact on those he encountered, leaving behind a trail of depression, defeat and death.

Dudgeon holds morally Barrie responsible for the early death and suicides of four of the five "lost boys" he befriended and informally adopted following the deaths of their parents Sylvia (nee du Maurier) & Arthur Llewellyn Davies; the disastrous second expedition of explorer Robert F Scott to the Antarctic and Daphne du Maurier's breakdowns.  His claim is that Barrie used mesmeric techniques to live vicariously through others, dragging them in the process into his shadowy dreamworld.  He suggests that Barrie deliberately wrote a play that led actor Gerald du Maurier to commit incest with his daughter, warping both their lives forevermore. In fact he finds a malevolent Barrie link with nearly everyone Barrie encountered.

It is hard to believe that anyone could be as black as Dudgeon paints Barrie, but his obsessive research does indicate that Barrie's life was far from the innocent charm of a Disneyfied Peter Pan. 

For Starters, a Satanic Svengali

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