As an English major, I tend to steer away from classic novels. I had my fill in college and have found reading a classic novel without some discussion surrounding it to be quite difficult. Often times classic novels use archaic language and phrases that are difficult to distill when one reads silently to one’s self. And as I found with Peter Pan, you have to compete with the numerous movie and play adaptations crowding your memory.
I picked up Peter Pan after reading Code Name Verity. I was intrigued by the number of “Pan” references in “Verity” and thought, as a children’s classic novel it would be easy to digest. Plus I wanted to read the source material that provided a bit of inspiration for my favorite read of 2014.
The first step was finding a version of the novel that wasn’t oversized and illustrated or abridged. None of the versions at my local library seemed to fit the bill. After some searching online, I found there were several free versions as “Pan” is in the public domain, but the formatting was so atrocious that I could not get into the story. I finally shelled out 99 cents for an electronic version of the book.
With the book in hand, I started to read and found it very hard to like the story. I think modern media has done a fantastic job at picking out and expanding on the themes Barrie presents in Peter Pan. As a novel, I found it a bit difficult to ignore the movie and play versions that I’m familiar with. As a result, I felt like I was treading water, waiting for the engagement with the story to kick in which never happened.
Maybe read aloud to children, Peter Pan would be quite in engaging. For me, I found Wendy to be whiny, Michael and John to be non-existent, Hook was a floozy, the parents were idiots and Peter was quite mean. Which was probably the most surprising bit to me, as many of the modern adaptations have Peter being a lonely, soft-hearted boy seeking a family.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie receives a thumbs down. For me, this may one of the few cases where adaptations may do the book a better service than the original source material. I found it difficult to connect with the characters and get past what I know from the adaptations to see the possible brilliance in the original story.