Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise – REVIEW

A lush, feminist re-imagining of what happened to Wendy after Neverland, for fans of Circe and The Mere Wife.

For those that lived there, Neverland was a children’s paradise. No rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests – all led by the charismatic boy who would never grow old.

But Wendy Darling grew up. She left Neverland and became a woman, a mother, a patient, and a survivor. Because Neverland isn’t as perfect as she remembers. There’s darkness at the heart of the island, and now Peter Pan has returned to claim a new Wendy for his lost boys…

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Titan Books.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“Wendy is a creature made all of want, aching for the cold expression to melt from Peter’s face, aching for her friend to take her hand and ask her to fly away with him.”

One of my all-time favourite books is Peter Pan. I love retellings and books inspired by the original story so I was thrilled to read an early copy of Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise. Picking up the story where the original ends, Wendy, Darling begins with Peter returning to Wendy’s nursery and taking her daughter Jane to Neverland. But this Neverland is nothing like the innocent, Disneyfied version so many of us know. Instead it takes some of the problematic elements and unknowns of the original and weaves them into something sinister and foreboding.

“In a whole world build to fit his whims, Wendy is the fractured piece slipped out of place.”

Wendy is the protagonist of this book and the reader is introduced to her many roles and complex character. We see her as a mother to the Lost Boys and then Jane, as a sister to Michael and John, and as a wife to Ned. These expected gender roles force women into the domestic sphere and Wendy chafes against these restrictions. The patriarchy uses these roles to oppress and control women and this is most obvious through Wendy’s forced admittance to an asylum when she refuses to denounce Neverland as a delusion. But we also see Wendy as just a woman, with her own wants and desires, separate from the men around her, most especially via her relationship with Mary, another inmate at the asylum.

“Peter was always monster and boy both.”

Wendy must return to Neverland once more to rescue Jane and deal with the lingering trauma from her first visit. Repressed memories threaten to surface and Wendy is wary of the darkness at the heart of Neverland. Peter is no innocent little boy. Instead, he almost represents an abusive partner, demonstrating coercive control and gas-lighting those around him. It’s not for women to protect men from the consequences of their actions and the author explores this through her incisive and nuanced prose. 

I honestly can’t recommend this feminist book enough. Whether you love or hate the original Peter Pan, definitely beg, borrow or buy a copy of Wendy, Darling for a deliciously dark and empowering story. 

(Goodreads | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Bookshop.org)

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