The Name Thief of Neverland is a children’s novel, a spin-off from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy in the time-honoured tradition of fan fiction. I think Barrie would have been very pleased with Dimity Knight’s tribute to him in the form of this novel.
I had the privilege of launching the book in early December 2018, and what follows are mostly excerpts from my speech.
The Name Thief of Neverland joins a large family of stories which have been spawned by JM Barrie’s novel Peter Pan and Wendy. That novel was published in 1911. It started life as a play by the same name, first performed in 1904, with immediate success that has never diminished.
The curious thing about Peter Pan and Wendy is that it’s not exactly a children’s story. Particularly in the narration of the first three chapters, it speaks to adult readers (and the mostly adult original playgoers) with a satirical air. The key to the charm of the conceited, lovable boy, Peter Pan: he is the embodiment of the magic of our childhood imaginings. Barrie writes for all of us who have forgotten or almost forgotten that magic. He says in Peter Pan and Wendy: ‘Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.’ Barrie writes to remind us of what we started to leave behind when that knowledge came to us.
Knight’s Neverland, or rather that of her main character, Holly, is a little different from the one Barrie portrays but there is a close family resemblance. And Knight has written for children. Nevertheless, she emulates Barrie’s style convincingly, in a more modern way, so to read The Name Thief is to take up where Barrie left off. So satisfying!
The Name Thief of Neverland quickly launches us into a dramatic scene in Neverland. We see Holly and her friends stealing the pirates’ treasure, and more significantly, Holly stealing Captain Peter’s name. Thus begins the complex relationship between Holly and Peter that shapes the novel. Names are highly significant in this story. Continue reading “Review of The Name Thief of Neverland, a children’s novel by Dimity Knight”