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.