Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: The Real Peter Pan: The Tragic Life of Michael Llewelyn Davies by Piers Dudgeon

Title: The Real Peter Pan: The Tragic Life of Michael Llewelyn Davies
Author: Piers Dudgeon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: July 12, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The world has long been captivated by the story of Peter Pan and the countless movies, plays, musicals, and books that retell the story of Peter, Wendy, and the Lost Boys. Now, in this revealing behind-the-scenes book, author Piers Dudgeon examines the fascinating and complex relationships among Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie, and the family of boys who inspired his work.

After meeting the Llewelyn Davies family in London's Kensington Garden, Barrie struck up an intense friendship with the children and their parents. The innocence of Michael, the fourth of five brothers, went on to influence the creation of Barrie's most famous character, Peter Pan. Barrie was so close to the Llewelyn Davies family that he became trustee and guardian to the boys following the deaths of their parents. Although the relationship between the boys and Barrie (and particularly between Barrie and Michael) was enduring, it was punctuated by the fiercest of tragedies. Throughout the heart-rending saga of Barrie's involvement with the Llewelyn Davies brothers, it is the figure of Michael, the most original and inspirational of their number, and yet also the one whose fate is most pitiable, that stands out."

My Two Cents:

Before reading "The Real Story of Peter Pan," I really did not know much at all about J.M. Barrie besides what I saw in the movie, "Finding Neverland." I was very interested to see what his inspiration was in this book. What I found was an eye-opening account of who Barrie was and what his often extremely close relationship was like with the family that influenced his fantastical stories.

I didn't realize how sad the origins of the Peter Pan stories were! The book shed light on how dark some of Barrie's inspirations were and how dark some of what he wanted the book to represent (death, etc.) was. I had basically taken the Peter Pan tales as a love letter to childlike innocence and make believe but in many cases, that is not what Barrie meant to do at all. It was fascinating to see my understanding turned on its head!

It is clear that the author did extensive research in order to put together this very detailed book but sometimes the research got in the way of putting the facts into an interesting story. Some parts of the story felt very much like a laundry list of facts and while they did shed light on Barrie and the family, they did not seem to be very interwoven with each other. The research is meticulous but sometimes does not flow. Overall, this book gave me a new view of J.M. Barrie through many details.  


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