OXFORD £12.99 £11.50 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897
Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Boys are back in town
Sunday 08 October 2006
I wouldn't count myself among the host of "Wendy worshippers and Hook aficionados" Geraldine McCaughrean felt at her shoulder when she sat down to start work on a sequel to Peter Pan. Only a veteran of more than 130 children's books could hope to see them off. But a return voyage to Neverland, your passage arranged by way of a competition run by Great Ormond Street Hospital, must rank as one of the most nerve-racking journeys undertaken by a modern author.
It's not as though the Pan story was lacking in imitators: prequels, sequels, revolting Disney movies, not to mention the slew of works picking over the life of its creator, J M Barrie. At the end of the original novel, Wendy and the Lost Boys have been claimed by adulthood; Hook by death at the jaws of a crocodile. To these problems, and all others, McCaughrean has endlessly imaginative solutions.
Ravello, a circus ringmaster, has come to Neverland, with an array of frightening beasties. Known as the "Ravelling Man", this woolly, indistinct figure - not so much a person as a "very tall cardigan" - finds a way to insinuate himself into Pan's retinue as valet. But what of those Lost Boys, all grown up now: judges, baronets and fathers? Well, they reappear, summoned to Neverland by unsettlingly vivid dreams, after donning their own children's clothes and shrinking down to their former sizes. Wendy, too, reprises her role as Mother and even Tinker Bell is wished back into existence.
So, with the original cast on board, what can McCaughrean find to do with them? The answer is a cunning combination of the best of Barrie's, and her own, previous work (with just a dash of inspiration from the film versions). In last year's The White Darkness, McCaughrean took a well-known story of adventure and exploration and reinvented it, as her young heroine set off across Antarctica with the spirit of the dead Captain Oates for company. Here, the reformed "League of Pan" set out on a classic quest for buried treasure but find something so sinister hidden at the summit of Neverpeak that it overturns not only their ideas about lost treasure but about Pan himself.
McCaughrean's book, like Barrie's, is as refreshingly dark and unsentimental as a book about fairies and lost babies can be, and it's hard to see how she could have done it better. There are some cast members who don't return for the sequel: Michael Darling, along with many of the pirate crew, has entered the ranks of eternally Lost Boys by joining up for the Great War. Neverland itself has changed from summer to autumn, polluted by Hook's poison. However, McCaughrean does allow herself, and us, an ending filled with the kind of happy reunions which Barrie clearly felt - perhaps for reasons obvious from his own biography - unable to provide.
And what about Peter Pan himself? Still as sulky, petulant and, frankly, unappealing as ever. But why is he dressed in scarlet? And wearing an Eton boy's white tie? Telling would be simply, as Hook would put it, terribly bad form.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
These Harry Potter lipsticks are sparking all sorts of controversy with Hogwarts fans
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Hunted: Channel 4 to test 'surveillance Britain' by taking Big Brother to sinister new lengths
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs