Have you ever wondered what happened when Wendy, John and Michael returned from Neverland? Wendy, Darling by A. C Wise is about to reveal all, but let me warn you, it is far from a fairytale!
Life post-Neverland for the Darling children has been difficult to say the least. Upon their return Wendy was struck with a serious fever, their parents were casualties of the Titanic, Michael has recently returned from WWI with his own ghosts and John has financial struggles. However, from Wendy’s perspective, these all pale in comparison: John and Michael have done the worst thing imaginable they have forgotten Neverland!
Wendy’s refusal to let go of Neverland and her dogged determination to make her brothers remember their adventures causes great friction within the Darling family. Wendy finds herself labelled as a hysterical woman and is even confined to an asylum after raging at her siblings.
This is just one of the methods Wise uses to address the misogyny of the original Peter Pan story and it is a particularly harrowing one: the abuse Wendy faces at the hands of her “carers” is brutal and unforgiving in its detail. To everyone surrounding her, Neverland is Wendy’s sickness, an imaginery world that she is hiding behind. However, several years after her release from St Bernadettes, Neverland still lives on in Wendy’s memories and now it is catching up with her. Now Peter is flying out of her window again… with Wendy’s daughter Jane in tow!
Wendy returns to a very different Neverland to that which she left. Although the island always seemed to play to Peter’s every whim this time there is a dark, evil edge to it. Wise really plays on the fact that everyone idolised Peter in the original fairytale but this Peter has a barbaric, sinister personality along with a dangerous secret. Can Wendy rescue her daughter from the boy she used to worship? One thing is for sure, they’re not playing a game anymore!
A. C Wise’s writing almost hypnotises the reader, flitting between characters and time periods with ease without losing our interest. The undercurrent of a locked-away secret and the juxtaposition between Barrie/Disney’s Neverland and Wise’s makes this a real page turner.
Wendy herself is a flawed heroine but in my opinion that is the best kind. She has overcome so much loss and trauma and, although she still feels the pull of Neverland, she finds that motherhood has a much stronger claim on her heart and can provide her with so much more power than she ever imagined.
Wendy, Darling is an unflinching retelling of Peter Pan with a feminist edge. A. C Wise kidnaps and transports her readers to a dark and ominous Neverland which harbours a monstrous secret. Wendy and her daughter are on an adventure of fear, loss and grief. There is no make-believe in this fantasy land.
Thank you to Netgalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Wendy, Darling comes with trigger warnings for kidnap, death, trauma and abuse.