Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Captivated Review and Giveaway Winner


Captivated, J.M. Barrie, Daphne du Maurier and the Dark Side of Neverland by Piers Dudgeon is a non-fiction book about the bizarre relationship of J.M. Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan, and the du Maurier family. This book turned out to be a rather captivating read. I first read about this book in the New York Times and then I saw a review for it over at Tessa Just Read . In the US, the book is titled Neverland, J.M. Barrie, the du Mauriers and the Dark Side of Peter Pan.

Being a Daphne du Maurier fan, I was intrigued to learn that she had placed a moratorium on her adolescent diaries. They can only be opened in 2039, fifty years after her death. The diaries have been described as "dangerous, indiscreet and stupid." But why the secrecy? What could be written in her diaries that so compelled her to add this restriction in her will? Piers Dudgeon was driven to learn more.

Dudgeon, who met Daphne shortly before her death, has done excellent research and shows several pieces of evidence such as letters, excerpts from books and interviews with family members that lead readers to believe that Barrie was a predator who deliberately sought the du Mauriers.  Barrie first befriended the family when he manipulated his way into their homes by meeting the Llewelyn-Davies sons (Daphne's first cousins) at the nearby park and being a sort of uncle/father figure to them. He was fascinated by their grandfather, Kicky, the writer of the hypnotic bestseller, Trilby. Kicky dabbled in hypnotism which Barrie was very interested in. The Llewelyn-Davies sons were the inspiration for Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Dudgeon implies that though he didn't abuse the boys sexually, he seems to have abused their minds. Two of the lost boys committed suicide and Daphne and others suffered from several nervous breakdowns throughout their lives.

I found the book extremely interesting and I kept wanting to know more. Throughout the book I felt a growing sense of unease like I was about to uncover something very creepy and unpleasant. However, though Captivated reveals an interesting family history and a wealth of secrets, Dudgeon doesn't really answer all the questions. He does paint a picture of a psychopath/predator who deliberately planned his way into the Llewelyn- Davies household and then ruthlessly altered their mother's will to place him as their guardian after her death. But how he influenced their imagination and how he hypnotized them and ensnared them in a spell for the rest of their lives is actually not very clear at all.

There are most assuredly skeletons in the family closets of  Barrie and the du Mauriers but the reader is left to speculate on all the missing pieces. It seems like all the answers won't really be revealed until we unlock Daphne's diaries in 2039. However, this book has compelled me to read more of Daphne's books this year and to find a good biography of her fascinating life.

And the winner of the Captivated giveaway is:

Verity at Verity's Virago Venture   and The B Files

Congratulations Verity! Please send me an email with your address so I can send the book soon.

10 comments:

  1. This books sounds fascinating. Thanks for mentioning the US title... wonder why publishers do that? Congratulations to Verity!

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  2. Hurrah - thank you! I'm so excited to be getting this to add to my DDM collection. I hope the snow goes away so that the postman can deliver it (haven't had post for over a week...)

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  3. This sounds utterly wonderful. I wonder what 2039 will bring us hey??? I am a huge Du Maurier fan and this sounds like its utterly great.

    Congrats to Verity.

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  4. I have this book impatiently waiting on my TBR and have been desperate to read it - more so now! I'll finish My Cousin Rachel first.

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  5. I didn't know that about her diaries! Oh, I love it when people do things like that - obviously I'd rather they just leave the diaries when they die so we don't have to wait, but I'm grateful they didn't just chuck them out or burn them like some people do.

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  6. I love DDM, too, so was delighted to fall upon this post (& congrats to Verity). Interesting questions, which I'm sure many of us have pondered when thinking of JMB. Personally, I always loathed Peter Pan; so I'd be prepared to believe that JMB was at the very least a decidedly creepy character. On balance, I'd rather NOT know the full (and doubtless horrible) truth.
    Greetings from France & a new visitor.

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  7. I'm adding this one to my wishlist. I'm a great fan of DDM so this one makes me really curious. I had no idea about her journals--she was such an interesting woman--maybe she didn't want them to be opened when her children were younger, though it's likely they'll still be alive when it does happen.

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  8. Wow, I just read Rebecca and loved it, so this is really interesting to me right now. Also, Finding Neverland was one of my favorite movies for a while, although I'm not sure I'll be able to watch it the same way again after reading this... Thanks for the great review!

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  9. This sounds like a fascinating book-I will begin to read one of the lesser known Peter Pan stories on line soon via Dailylit.com-great review

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