Peter Darling by Austin Chant | Goodreads
Judge: MR CHANT. You stand here today in this fictional literary tribunal accused of PERNICIOUS CRIMES AGAINST THE BOOK LOVING COMMUNITY. Plaintiff, please read the charges.
Me: *clears throat* ahem
- Charge one: that this book caused me to lose HALF A DAYS WORK ON MY DISSERTATION, because I COULD NOT CONCENTRATE ON ANYTHING EXCEPT DEVOURING EVERY GLORIOUS WORD
- Charge two: that this book gave me a haemorrhoid from all the effort of dEsPERAtelY trying NOT TO REREAD IT WHEN I NEEDED TO GO AND DO ACTUAL LIFE THINGS,,,
- Charge three: that i got CRAMP from sitting so long and did not realise because MY TONGUE WAS LITERALLY SUPER GLUED TO MY LAPTOP SCREEN FOR THREE HOURS
- Charge four: that this book was sO FUCKING GOOD that I CRIED LITERALLY THREE TIMES WHILST READING IT, GOD FRIGGING DAMMIT
Judge: order in the court
Me: sorry your honour. Now as I was saying
- Charge five: that thanks to this book, I have been able to talk about NOTHING ELSE FOR TWO DAYS FLAT, ALL OF MY FRIENDS AND MY SISTER WANT TO DISOWN ME, AND I AM GOING TO HAVE TO MOVE UP ON TO THE HILL OUTSIDE MY TOWN TO BECOME AN AUSTIN CHANT HERMIT WHO LIVES INSIDE A HERMITAGE CONSTRUCTED SOLELY OF COPIES OF THIS BOOK, SPENDING THEIR DAYS CACKLING MANIACALLY AND YELLING ABOUT THE MERSKIN BOOTS AND MY PRECIOUS BABY ERNEST —
Judge: yes thank you that’s quite enough. Now Mr Chant, what do you plead?
Austin Chant: Um, guilty to all charges bitches, because my book is fucking awesome?
Judge: *rifles through copy of Peter Darling* i see
Judge: uh, yes. indeed. You are correct. *bangs hammer majig* utterly and supremely guilty, hereby acquitted of all charges
Me: wait what
Judge: all those in favour of crowning Mr Chant king of neverland say aye
Everyone: AYE TIMES LIKE, 110%??
Judge: *bangs mallet malarkey* MOTION PAST, ALL HAIL THE NEW KING OF NEVERLAND
Me: WTF this is not how a court works, I saw Legally Blonde, you can’t bullshit me like this
*EVERYTHING BLOWS UP IN A FLAMING ECSTASY OF FAIRY DUST, QUEER APPRECIATION AND GLITTER*
Okay. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’m going to try to say coherent thoughts about this beautiful, bittersweet novel. And my apologies in advance, because I tried, I really did, but this still seems to be about 90% capslock.
Firstly, can we just address the elephant in the room: Hook and Pan are both just ridiculously sexy characters. In every form. Even when they’re animated. Even… even when they’re Robin Williams. Ish.
To cut a long story short, both have been known to cause me great consternation throughout my youth.
Peter Darling is 100% cacklingly down for embracing The Hotness of the two leads, addressing it full on, and then RUNNING WITH IT LIKE A STEAM TRAIN. A steam train that runs. Many blushes were to be had by Maddy.
*MILD SPOILER* There was even a midly stabby kiss scene. I literally adore slightly murderous kisses. Chapter Thirteen oh what have you done to my life. Gaaaaaaaaarrrgh
Next, the writing was gorgeous. Literally gorgeous, but only sparingly so, so that we got a fresh smattering of Neverland without being overwhelmed with purple prose. For example:
Peter frowned. Before he could think much more about it, they emerged into a grotto so bright it was like standing on the moon. The ground was carpeted in flowers of all kinds, from bluebells to vigorous lilies; they rioted together, crowding and crawling over each other like weeds.
DUDE. This description is just fricking EDIBLE. With choice sentences like dotted about, I was transported to a heady sunlit island in an instant and never, ever wanted to return.
Okay now lets talk about THE CHARACTERS.
Peter. OH PETER.
So here’s the deal. Although I adore any and all adaptations of the Peter Pan story, I’ve never liked Barrie’s original as much as I feel I should… because I just couldn’t stand Peter. Although he is sparky, fun,whip-smart and unpredictable… he is also callous, arrogant, selfish and utterly vicious. And yet. and YET. Chant provides a motive sO BRILLIANT, and SO COMPLEX, to all of Peter’s contradictory, brilliant, infuriating character traits (— and Austin’s characterisation of Peter is PITCH PERFECT TRUE TO THE ORIGINAL, BTW —) that this time round I completely fell in love with him.
He is callous because he is running away from horrific trauma. He is arrogant because he is projecting forward every part of who he wants to be, in a way that will help him forget. He is vicious because he has to be man, to know that he is a man. So that he is able to love himself.
Let me provide you with 70,000 reasons why James Hook is bae. In fact, you know what, I’ll let him speak for him self. Because alongside being dashing, charming, cruel, impeccably dressed and utterly redeemable anti-hero that we all know he secretly is, Hook is also hilarious.
“I suppose you never gave any thought to the adults who had to deal with your games,” he said. “Imagine having a well-cultivated pirate crew and an established career as the terror of the seas, only to have some bloody ten-yearold show up claiming he’s the spirit of youth and joy and your unholy nemesis. Oh, and he’s rallied a bunch of other little boys to come and kill you.”
Needless to say, I lol’ed.
Finally, I want to speak about how beautifully, sensitively and patiently the romance in this book is handled. For both Peter and Hook, their love is a process of healing. Let’s just say that at the exchange between the two as they sit upon the window seat at page 182, I openly wept. I feel honoured to have read a novel which not only gives a thoroughly loving, honest, heart-breaking portrait of a trans hero, but mingles with equal skill the romance and fantasy elements of its plot into a tightly written gem of a story. Overall, the message this book brings is hella powerful.
I shall leave you with this. Part way through the book, something is said which hit me flat across the face like a frying pan.
“It used to be my story, you know, when I was a boy and I had Neverland to myself. But then you came along, and you were so ruthless and insistent, before I knew it you’d snatched the narrative away from me. You claimed—you insisted—that it was you who cut off my hand, when it was perfectly clear that I had not had the hand well before you arrived. You then told me you had fed the hand to a crocodile who would follow me to the ends of the earth, and lo and behold, such a crocodile appeared and hunted me until its death. The very world here bends for the sake of your stories, Pan. I see no reason why I, a mere man, should not.”
At this point it came crashing down upon my head that the people of Neverland are not simply lost children who arrive at random magical adventure island by chance. It is the children who create Neverland.
And for most of these children, lost is simply a euphemism for escaping.
The good retellings bring elements which are new and fresh to a well loved classic. The best retellings — the rarest retellings — strike at something so deep and true within the meaning of the original story, that they change the way you look at it for ever. For me, Peter Darling is one of those retellings.
FIVE STARS BITCHES