Wendy, Darling by AC Wise

Posted On 7 June 2021

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My Five Word TL:DR Review. Very dark, no fairy dust

WendyWendy, Darling is definitely a dark retelling of the Peter Pan, Neverland, Lost Boys story.  It shines a much more sinister light on the original story and examines themes of family, mental health and memory and the way it sometimes distorts truth into illusively perfect snapshots of the past that reach new heights of perfection as time moves forward.

As the story begins we meet Wendy, now a mother with a young daughter Jane.  Jane is taken by Peter, I could say in a moment of mistaken identity but I don’t really believe that’s the case, he didn’t want a Wendy that had grown older, he wanted the young girl he remembered and so he took Jane. It’s kind of ironic that Peter wants a ‘mother’ figure for himself and his lost boys but at the same time wants a child rather than an adult in the role, he doesn’t want an adult to tell them what to do he simply wants someone who is perceived to be looking after them, believing their stories and administering band aids when necessary.  Now, Wendy must return to Neverland, a place that she left willingly, not afraid to grow up, but that she still holds cherished memories of, to rescue her daughter

We have two different timelines here.  We return to a much younger version of Wendy who remains steadfast in her belief that Neverland exists.  Her brothers have both changed their minds, believing it was make believe, but Wendy still insists and it is this persistence in the face of rationality that eventually sees her placed in an asylum.  Of course, in the era this retelling is set it wasn’t unknown for ‘troublesome’ females to be placed in such institutions to rid families of either an embarrassment or difficult family member.  In fact the story of the young girl that Wendy befriends whilst incarcerated is truly awful.  The other storyline is the adult Wendy version who has a marriage, a daughter and a best friend.

Ultimately of course the story takes place in Neverland, both the ‘then’ and the ‘now’.  We slowly reveal some of the memories that Wendy has repressed over the years before she came up  with her rose tinted perfect version of events.  The Island is different and as Wendy explores the terrain in search of her daughter she realises that the idyll has long since disappeared.  Meanwhile, Jane is trying to come to terms with this strange place that she has been dropped into.  Peter literally drops her amongst the Lost Boys and expects her to pick up their care.  She struggles to remember her own name sometimes becoming almost consumed with the thrill of the chase and the games.  As Jane begins to recapture her own sense of identity she also becomes aware of the slightly sinister feel to this life.  Peter has secrets for sure but much worse than his secrets is the desperation which drives him to insist that they’re all having fun, a desperation that fuels his constant need to find new games to play, insisting that everyone is enjoying themselves whether they like it or not.  Fear and bullying are a very real element of this world that help to keep the boys firmly in place and malleable to Peter’s every whim.

The setting is predominantly Neverland with a little bit of London and also the time Wendy spent in an institution.  I’m not going to give anything away about Neverland in this later iteration but it isn’t quite the sparkling fun filled paradise that it once seemed.

The characters.  Well, we have Wendy and her two brothers.  One now traumatised by his experiences during the war and the other in complete denial of childhood events.  We have the lost boys, Peter and a monster living at the heart of the island. Suspiciously absent was Tinkerbell but Tiger Lily plays a strong role.

In terms of criticisms.  I liked this and thought it was an interesting take with a strong feminist slant. However, if you’re coming here, like Wendy in this retelling, with strong and rosy feelings of nostalgia then you’re likely to be disappointed.  There is no fairy dust, no swirly mustachioed pirates or beautiful if slightly peevish mermaids.  There is still a lot of petty adolescents, rivalries, vying for attention and a strange Lord of the Flies feel to the Lost Boys overall, and Peter, whilst you could still think him a boy simply refusing to grow up you would be hard pressed to deny that he is somewhat manipulative. On top of this, there is a slightly bloated feeling to this, it takes its time to set scenes and provide background but sometimes it feels a little bit too distracting, pulling you away from the plot.  I also felt like the ending was a little rushed and I’m not one hundred percent on what really happened.

All that being said, I enjoyed this one.  It is dark, gothic in fact, given the London feel and the asylum. it certainly kept my attention and I wouldn’t hesitate to read more by this author.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars.

7 Responses to “Wendy, Darling by AC Wise”

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Well, I won’t lie, I was hoping for a bit more than 3.5 stars, but hey, I love that it is dark and gothic!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah. To be fair. It’s a very easy book to read and I enjoyed the writing. There were a couple of little issues. Truthfully, it is weird to see an old character portrayed in such a light. In one respect it fit the story really well but then in another there’s a part of you that thinks he was just a boy, refusing to grow up. I thought the end was a little abrupt. But. I did enjoy it overall.

  2. Tammy

    This sounds pretty interesting, but from your descriptions maybe a little bland. I always think of Christina Henry’s Lost Boy as the PP retelling to beat😁

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    When you mentioned Peter Pan’s fixation on “having fun” and the bullying elements in his “forever young” community I perceived a strong component of uneasiness (I hesitate to use the word ‘horror’) that might make this retelling quite intriguing…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Calmgrove

    You’ve intrigued me with this review, I’d be happy to read it if it came my way. I always thought the original had really dark underpinnings anyway so this ‘sequel’ sounds to be merely an extention of that.

  5. waytoofantasy

    Was really curious about this one because the author is somewhat local to me I think and also it’s Wendy! I love Wendy. But of course I am always interested to see a new take on things. I don’t know if I’ll add this one to my TBR yet but the whole ‘gothic’ thing has me interested at least.

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