While familiar with the plays and movies of Peter Pan, I didn't think I had ever read the book by James Barrie so recently listened to it on tape. Since some of the details that are only in the book were familiar, I must have read it and forgotten.
The Plot: You're kidding, right? Right? What, it's a tradition, now I have to do it?
OK, if I must: Peter Pan visits Wendy Darling, and takes Wendy and her brothers back to Never Land for an endless childhood of play and games, while the Darling parents wait by an open window, praying for their children to return.
The Good: I loved reading this book as an adult; and I adore Peter. Not because he is adorable; but because he is so honest and brutal and self-involved. He is a real child, who hasn't been glamorized or sanctified, at least not by Barrie. Peter is "gay and innocent and heartless." And it is in that heartlessness that Peter is so such a wonderful creation, because I'm not sure how many books are so heartless themselves in viewing children. It is this heartlessness that I didn't recognize as a child in my reading of the text, probably because of being heartless myself so not recognizing Peter as being anything other than a typical child; but I see it now. And think that it's must reading as an adult. (Makes me think those who say Peter Pan is fun and uplifting haven't read the book as a grownup.) Part of my adoring him includes, at times, being afraid of him and what he is capable of.
There are quite the few layers here: the grief of the Darling parents at the loss of their children, the way the children act without adults around, the imitating of adult behaviour, the pure living in the moment.
I loved how Barrie captured the belief and fantasy of childhood, and even the casualness of death and violence as seen thru child's play. Pan is so in the moment; I was as shocked as Wendy when I found that Pan didn't even remember who Tinkerbell was. The past is the past; only the present matters.
I like Barrie's narration, all seeing, at times bordering on snarky.
I also liked the humor, the fallibility of the grownups, the Darlings, with a foot both in fantasy and reality. Having read it, I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Peter Pan in Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean.