OXFORD £12.99 £11.50 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897

Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Boys are back in town

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor