J.M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers and the Dark Side of Neverland

Book - 2008
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Random House, Inc.
An extraordinary book about the imagination — and the astonishing force of its creative power . . . for evil as well as good.

Captivated is a true story of genius and possession. The central character is the creator of Peter Pan, the novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie, a man tormented by inner demons since childhood.

Barrie developed a consuming interest in the family of George du Maurier, author of Trilby, a bestselling novel featuring his creation Svengali. Barrie made his move on the du Maurier family immediately after George’s death, assuming George’s mantel. Soon Barrie was “Uncle Jim” to George du Maurier’s eight grandchildren, playing romping games of adventure and make-believe and inviting the children into the transcendental world of Neverland. Four of the boys (the “lost boys” of Peter Pan) and one of the girls (the imaginative tomboy Daphne) were captivated.

This fascinating book delves deep, makes links and yields up secrets. It tells how Barrie’s victims — whom he would have not grow up — were lost to breakdown, suicide or early death. Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca emerges as the lost boys’ companion and the enigmatic chronicler of their fate. Captivated is about writing and the world of the imagination: it is a singular example of art being used not only to imitate life, but darkly to transform it.

Piers Dudgeon knew Daphne du Maurier and worked with her in the 1980s. When he discovered that she had put a moratorium on publication of her adolescent diaries until fifty years after her death, he was prompted to begin his researches into her background. What was the mystery that had Daphne been so keen to suppress?

Blackwell North Amer
Captivated is a true story of genius and possession at a crossroads in time, when the late nineteenth-century world of the occult and the psychic arts gave way to the new science of psychology.
The central characters are J. M. Barrie, a man tormented by inner demons since childhood; George du Maurier, the creator of Svengali, who showed how it is possible by means of hypnosis for one person to gain control over the mind of another; and Daphne du Maurier, George's enigmatic granddaughter, author of Rebecca and secret chronicler of her family's story.
This book delves deep, makes links and yields up secrets. It tells how Barrie brought his victims to nervous breakdown, early death and suicide, and how three writers formed an image of their dark side - in Svengali, Peter Pan and Rebecca - and how these images cleaved to reality and took control.

Publisher: London : Chatto & Windus, 2008
ISBN: 9780701182168
Branch Call Number: 828.91209 Barri-D
Characteristics: xvi, 333 p., [24] p. of plates : ill., maps


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May 15, 2012

First off, I finished reading this book out of pure altruism: so you won't have to. All right, it's also because I paid for the damned thing. I found it in the bargain bin of my local bookstore and it certainly looked interesting.

And it's not a boring read, it's just a really really really irritating read. I was about a third of the way through when I pulled Andrew Birkin's J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys out of my shelves to remind myself what a good book on the subject is like. (And seriously, Andrew Birkin's book is what you need if you want a better picture of the truly eerie story of James Barrie and his relationship with the five young Llewellyn-Davies brothers; trust me, Finding Neverland is nowhere near what really happened.)

Then I found myself reading other, totally unrelated books because I was wasting too much time hurling this one across the room.

At one point, Dudgeon quotes Daphne DuMaurier's biographer Margaret Forster who, he says, criticized Daphne for mixing documentary fact "in the most awkward fashion with entirely imaginary suppositions, greatly to [the book's]detriment". That sums up this book perfectly. Go read Birkin's book instead.

Now, I'm going to toss this into the give-away box, but not before marking it up in pencil to warn the unwary. Then I'm going to read something by someone who writes well, has a good editor, and doesn't use speculation instead of research.

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