Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Piers Dudgeon's Neverland

 

Review of Neverland: J.M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan.

Piers Dudgeon paints a mostly negative portrait of J.M. Barrie, the playwright and creator of Peter Pan. In Dudgeon's estimation, Barrie is an interloper who manipulated the Llewelyn-Davies children as well as those of the Du Mauriers. Daphne DuMaurier was a first cousin of the Llewelyn-Davies boys, the inspiration for Barrie's Peter Pan. 

Barrie played a large role in the Llewelyn-Davies' boys lives, eventually unofficially adopting them and later setting up Peter Llewelyn-Davies as a publisher. The book is highly detailed and quotes several credible sources and certainly there is proof that Barrie tampered with Syvia  Llewelyn-Davies' will, giving Barrie guardianship of her children. Whether Barrie played the part of their Svengali as Dudgeon claims in Neverland is for the reader to decide.  

The strength of Neverland is the detailed analysis of Daphne DuMaurier's works. That some of Daphne DuMaurier's characters may be directly related to her friendship with "Uncle Jim" (as she called Barrie) is fascinating. Her parents were actors who had met and fallen in love while playing parts in one of James Barrie's plays. Barrie was obviously a strong influence on DuMaurier from the beginning.

Dudgeon gives a fascinating glimpse into the lives of three families who happen to be actors, artists, and writers. Family secrets, suicides, unexplained illnesses are rampant; and, yet, these same individuals are also known for incredible bursts of creativity. Though some footnotes are given, Dudgeon's style is highly readable.


Review by Chantal Walvoord