Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Peter Pan
J. M. Barrie
(cover art by Peter Nuyten)
Wolters-Noordhoff 2004
New price + picture not available for my edition

Book review | Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie | 5 stars


Synopsis (English translation below)*

Op een avond vliegt de altijd jonge Peter Pan door het openstaande raam de slaapkamer van de kinderen Lieveling binnen, samen met het elfje Tinkel Bel, zijn gezellin. Wanneer Wendie, Jan en Michiel wakker worden, leert Peter Pan hen vliegen en zo vertrekken ze naar Nimmerland, het land van avontuur en eeuwige jeugd.

Wendie ontfermt zich over de zoekgeraakte jongens, die zich onder de grond schuilhouden voor de gevreesde Kapitein Haak en zijn zeerovers. Verder wordt het eiland nog bewoont door Tijgerlelie en haar wilde indianen. De kinderen beleven de spannendste avonturen en uiteindelijk komt het tot een echt gevecht met Kapitein Haak en zijn piraten…

One night, the always young Peter Pan flies through the open window into the bedroom of the Darling children, together with Tinker Bel, his companion. When Wendy, John, and Michael wake up, Peter Pan teaches them to fly and they leave for Neverland, the land of adventure and eternal youth.

Wendy takes care of the lost boys, who are hiding under ground from the feared Captain Hook and his pirates. Besides them, the island is inhabited by Tiger Lily and her wild Indians. The children have the most exciting adventures and eventually there is a real fight with Captain Hook and his pirates…


All I really knew about Peter Pan before reading the book, was that he was a boy afraid of growing up. That was, luckily, correct. Other things from the Disney movie or Once upon a Time prove less verifiable. My biggest discovery? The quote is “The second to the right and straight on till morning” That star that Disney added isn’t anywhere to be found in the book; they fly straight over the sea touching sharks! Nowhere near any stars.

If you can get past the sexism in this book, it’s a pretty amazing read. Obviously, it’s over 100 years old, there is going to be sexism. Mostly though, it’s not too horrible; just a terrible reinforcement of gender roles: the lost boys (and Peter Pan) need a mother to take care of them (Fathers are obviously useless for that). I didn’t find it too difficult to disregard it in this book. I had much more trouble for example with the Chronicles of Narnia

Anyway, I loved the writing. When you read the book, it’s as if the writer is talking to you, explaining what’s going on, and telling you why we’re switching perspectives. It’s a great way to read a book and I can imagine that when it’s read to children it would be even more amazing.

On top of that, Barrie has added all kinds of details that have eventually been left out of the movies and such. This makes the book so much richer and a much more convincing fantasy world. For example, a mom who comes and sits with you at night while you’re sleeping to order you thoughts and feelings, folds them neatly into piles and puts them back into your head. There are more of these kind of really sweet and cute details, but I don’t want to give them all away.

The characters are mostly flat, only Peter Pan and Wendy really have any personality. Besides that, Tinker Bel is the jealous friend who doesn’t want to share, Captain Hook is evil incorporated, and Tiger Lily the playmate you sometimes get along with and sometimes don’t. This is not really a problem, as the story itself really only focusses on Wendy and Peter. If all the other character also had had long background stories, I think everything would’ve merely gotten too complicated to be enjoyable. As it stands, it’s so easy to read and understand because you know exactly what each character stands for.

The story itself was as I had expected, because nothing much was different about that. However, through all the details and the way it was written, it was so much more enjoyable than I had thought it would be.


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