The world has long been captivated by the story of Peter Pan and the countless movies, plays, musicals, and books that retell the story of Peter, Wendy, and the Lost Boys. Now, in this revealing behind-the-scenes book, author Piers Dudgeon examines the fascinating and complex relationships among Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie, and the family of boys who inspired his work.
After meeting the Llewelyn Davies family in London's Kensington Garden, Barrie struck up an intense friendship with the children and their parents. The innocence of Michael, the fourth of five brothers, went on to influence the creation of Barrie's most famous character, Peter Pan. Barrie was so close to the Llewelyn Davies family that he became trustee and guardian to the boys following the deaths of their parents. Although the relationship between the boys and Barrie (and particularly between Barrie and Michael) was enduring, it was punctuated by the fiercest of tragedies. Throughout the heart-rending saga of Barrie's involvement with the Llewelyn Davies brothers, it is the figure of Michael, the most original and inspirational of their number, and yet also the one whose fate is most pitiable, that stands out.
The Real Peter Pan is a captivating true story of childhood, friendship, war, love, and regret.
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.