I do Believe in Fairies; ‘Peter Pan’ by J.M. Barrie [1911]

Aside from the heart-wrenching sadness the Parades End tetralogy has created in mea story for another blog I currently feel abused, tricked, patronised and most of all, I feel naive.Yes, I am being intentionally dramatic.

I picked up Peter Pan to try and bridge the gap between the end of Cloud Atlas and the beginning of the Parades End series. Peter Pan, I imagined, would be a nice light hearted piece of fiction on the importance of having fun as a child, also in growing up. Disney made Peter Pan look good. I stupidly took all my Peter Pan knowledge from the animation to my reading of the book, and boy was I fooled.

Peter Pan, the book based on J.M. Barrie’s famous play, is filled with unforgettable characters: Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children–Wendy, John, and Michael–who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks.Synopsis from GoodReads.

Do not misunderstand me, I really enjoyed the book, my negative reaction is only a reflection of my own subjectivity. This is a must read!

Peter is a vile, selfish child, I disliked him from the beginning. Travelling with Pan would appear an adventure to children, however, experiencing him as an adult I thought him more of a captor; I would be bloody scared of the situation Wendy, John and Michael throw themselves into. The Darling children and lost boys are all so certain everything is make-believe when it is all so real. Peter is a misguided authority on everything, Wendy, however, is confined to the role of mother when she is far more logical and adult, an attribute ignored or repressed by Peter. Barrie has wonderfully captured the essence of being young, when we so believe we know it all.

I found, rather than the shiny Disney version I was given as a child, Peter Pan is somewhat sinister. Death is a reality in wonderland, it is not just play. Each tribe, the boys, animals, aboriginals and pirates, kill, hunt and never grow a day older. People and experiences are forgotten almost directly after they happen, Peter rarely remembers his latest adventures, let alone his life before Neverland. The children are devoid of their long term memory, their old lives forgotten. Only Wendy, the acting adult, remembers and must be the constant reminder to her brothers so they may one day return home. As an adult losing your memory is a worrisome fear, I could not imagine anything more horrific than forgetting.

Wendy was my voice of reason, but she is lost in the allure of Peter, she and Mr Darling/Hook made this book, it is almost a shame Hook had to die. It was also a shame that in the book you could not tell that Mr Darling and Hook are one in the same as you can watching the play. This demonstrates how a child’s imagination works, demonising and conquering the repressive captor of their imagination that is their father.

A Multitude of Drops; ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell [2004]

Uncharacteristically I have begun this blog before I have finished Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a sign of a gripping read. I have not felt this revitalised by a novel in a long time. Mitchell writes intelligently and thoughtfully, there are ideas swimming around in my head now that I have not touched on since university; I feel intellectually reawakened in a way so few books have done before.

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation—the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small. Synopsis from GoodReads

Cloud Atlas is a travel forward and backwards through time via Adam Ewing, Robert Frobisher, Louisa Rey, Timothy Cavendish, Sonmi and Zachary. They are not the only players in the game of life, however, the chapters of time significantly revolve around their stories. Characters and lives intertwine, the one after knows about the one before, and all of this is so beautifully written you will not be able to put it down.

I only struggled twice through my endeavour to read Cloud Atlas prior to the film’s release; Mitchell wrote Adam Ewing so accurately I felt as if I were reading a 19th Century memoir, and Zachary colloquialisms were difficult to decider. Do not be put off by these struggles, Mitchell has an infallible talent for characterisation. My two enjoyments lied in Robert Frobisher and Timothy Cavendish and I cannot decide who I prefer. Their snarky sarcasm and high-arrogance was a pleasure to read, however, if pressed Cavendish indignant prose induced more laughter than Frobisher’s sardonic droll.

What distressed me most, in each chapter, each era, each life, two characters lose each other without being able to be happy in love. In sharing this with my friend I was told that that is life, to find someone perfect but it is not the right time. When is the right time? I have been forward and back through Cloud Atlas now, and if there is no resolution why the repetition? It depresses me.

“Time cannot permeate this sabbatical. We do not stay dead long. Once my Luger lets me go, my birth, next time around, will be upon me in a heartbeat. In thirteen years from now we’ll meet again at Gresham, ten years later I’ll be back in this same room, holding this same gun, composing this same letter, my resolution as perfect as my many-headed sextet. Such elegant certainties comfort me.”Frobisher’s last letter

Yet, the beauty in Cloud Atlas lies in history’s repetition; in Ewing’s prediction of Zachary’s world. We make no different decisions and we do not learn from past mistakes. We will always love, hate, wage wars and attempt to control peace, however, it is the awareness that we must make change and alter our mode of thought that drives us. Success is not easily defined, but what comes after seems to always be better than what has passed.even if it isn’t

“‘He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, you life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!’ Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”Adam Ewing

Read Cloud Atlas, you will not regret it.

We’ll Meet Again; ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs [2011]

Why I continue to expose myself to Young Adult Fiction, I will never know; I only become more and more frustrated with it. I am clearing failing to remember that YAF is written for emotionally confused teenagers, not emotionally baffled adults.

It was with great enthusiasm that I began Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; brilliant premise, wonderfully written for our young adults, but sadly, not quite enough for me.

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. Fiction is based on real black and white photographs. The death of grandfather Abe sends sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and explores abandoned bedrooms and hallways. The children may still live.Synopsis from GoodReads

I would like to state that there is nothing wrong with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it works wonderfully, just not to my taste. So, while I feel that this is not the correct way to judge a book, ‘well I’d have written it like this’, stating it now will go on to explain my issues with the novel, and hopefully not put anyone off reading it.

The culture clash between a secluded little Welsh Island and Miami was wonderful and very well utilised, without feeling forced it allowed an isolated set up necessary for Jacob’s adventure. Jacob’s worn down father was a brilliant touch and I hope is further utilised in sequels, it was easy to feel sympathetic for such a truly beaten man, distanced from his father (Abe) and son (Jacob) by their same genetic trait he did not share. The Victorian edge to the story, and my initial reason for reading, was brilliant; it was only a shame that this was not more of a focus. In addition, the children of Miss Peregrine’s home felt more a product of Jacob’s time than the Victorian loop they were isolated too; their frustration at being trapped on the same day in 1940, while realistic, was patronising considering their status as adult minds in children’s bodies.

For every Hero there must be a villain and while the Hallows and their servants the Waits were far superior to the more fallible of other novels, their back story was uninteresting. While this made for an uneven balance of evil over good, Jacob’s individual talent for their discovery made for realistic character progression. The final twist of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is guessable, however, I did not comprehend the extent of it until its unveiling (although, I did wonder why more Waits had not employed similar tactics).

All in all my main frustration came in Emma and Jacob’s burgeoning romance; Emma a ‘child’ in Miss Peregrine’s home, and master of fire, is initially lover of Abe until he goes off to fight the war. Then enters Jacob years later, image of his grandfather and Emma is once again smitten. Emma’s feelings for Abe felt like love where as for Jacob lust and longing for her Abe. While I did feel pity for Emma, unkindly abandoned and disposed of by Abe, as soon as another dashing young man appears he is practically forgotten.

As I finished I got my mind into a spin wondering what Abe knew about Jacob being in the past as Abe grew into the future and if they fought together, I guess only a sequel will tell.

The title of the novel comes from the Vera Lynn song of the same name, which you can hear here.

“We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”