The Real Peter Pan: J.M. Barrie and the Boy Who Inspired Him

Piers Dudgeon. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-250-08779-9
Dudgeon’s (Maeve Binchy) newest literary biography is ostensibly about Michael Llewelyn Davies, the young boy beloved by author J.M. Barrie and immortalized as Peter Pan. However, when he declares near the end, “This book is not principally about Barrie,” most readers will be surprised. The book would appear to be very much about Barrie and his excessive, and somewhat seamy, interest in Michael and his brothers, both as sources of inspiration and as the children he never had. Michael, on the other hand, remains a cipher. Part of this may be a lack of sources and the fact that Michael only lived to be 20. But his voice barely registers; readers will see him almost exclusively through other people’s eyes, and very dimly at that. Intelligent and sensitive, Michael was the fourth of five sons born to Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies. He became the favorite of James Barrie, who inextricably entwined himself in the boys’ lives and insinuated himself into the family as “Uncle Jim.” Even Michael’s death, in 1921, remains an enigma: did he drown accidentally or commit suicide? Either way, he did indeed fulfill the tragic image of the boy who would not grow old. This unsatisfying biography produces few other insights. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/11/2016
Release date: 07/12/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-250-08780-5
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