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J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Real Story Behind Peter Pan Paperback – July 11, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"A psychological thriller... one of the year's most complex and absorbing biographies." Gerald Clarke, Time "A terrible and fascinating story." Eve Auchincloss, Washington Post "Positively the most captivating book I have read in years." Margaret Forster, Evening Standard "My most unforgettable read of the year." Ronald Blythe, Guardian

About the Author

Andrew Birkin has written many screenplays, including The Name of the Rose with Alain Godard and The Story of Joan of Arc with Luc Besson. He is currently writing the script for Patrick Suskind's Perfume.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (July 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300098227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300098228
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

163 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Gibson on July 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
Wonderful news ... this new edition makes available a book that's been out-of print for much too long.
Birkin completed the book when adapting the story of J M Barrie for a BBC mini-series, The Lost Boys. As well as writing Peter Pan, Barrie was in his time, regarded as a playwright the equal of George Bernard Shaw. That his work quickly fell out of favour may be due to its pathos and close relation to Barrie's own life.
I stumbled across this book over ten years ago, and its poignancy, honestly and power have been with me ever since.
It centres around the Llewelyn Davies family, which became the inspiration for Peter Pan, but went on to have an even more profound impact upon the life of the melancholic Scottish playwright.
As one of the protagonists later wrote, the masses of photographs (extensively reproduced in the book) seem to foretell the whole sad story. Indeed, Birkin's strength is allowing the story to unfold through letters, images and quotation from Barrie's surprisingly autobiographical work. What emerges is the finest of biographies. Peter Pan acquires a whole new sad significance in the light of this book, and it captures the fading Edwardian twighlight exquisitely.
Upon the death of the last of the Llewelyn Davies boys (after first publication), the majority of the material used in the book was bequeathed to Birkin, a ringing endorsement of his sensitive and perceptive retelling of the story.
I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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187 of 198 people found the following review helpful By The Wingchair Critic on January 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Back in print after a quarter of a century, Andrew Birkin's 'J. M. Barrie & the Lost Boys: The Love Story That Gave Birth To Peter Pan' (1979) is a mesmerizing and genuinely tragic book that succeeds on every level. As the title suggests, the book is not only a biography of Scottish playwright and novelist J. M. Barrie, but of the Llewelyn Davies family, whose five sons, with Barrie's dead brother, David, inspired the creation Peter Pan, one of Western literature's most enduring and suitably timeless figures.

By drawing heavily on Barrie's notebooks as well as his and the Llewelyn Davies family's letters and other correspondence, the text allows the large cast of participants to tell their story in piecemeal fashion. The result, which resembles an elaborate mosaic, is a poignant reflection on tragic events, both those which might have been averted and those, like disease and the Great War, which could not have been.

'J. M. Barrie & the Lost Boys' is also an excellent illustration of Freud's theory of 'family romance' in both its constructive and destructive aspects. The sentimental Barrie was deeply tied to and haunted by his own familial relationships, a psychology he brought to and projected upon the Llewelyn Davies family after becoming enchanted by two of their young boys in Kensington Gardens. Barrie was a middle aged and childless man, if a very successful one, at that time in his life, and his manipulative and interloping intrusion into the family has been a subject of speculation by historians and literary scholars ever since.
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Holden on September 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
J.M. Barrie is truly a genius and Birkin has captured this genius with all of its pain and dysfunction in this great biography. This new large paperback version of Birkin’s book is excellent. It contains all of the material from the original hardcover including a lot of photographs. This newest version also has an updated forward and provides a web link to the Author’s full collection of Barrie writings and photographs.
I originally read the mass market size, paperback of this biography and was very pleased. However, I now realize how much I had missed, in terms of photographs and reproductions. This newest version is a real must-have for those interested in the life and work of Barrie.
Birkin does an extraordinary job of showing us Barrie’s life and work and most importantly his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family. He does all of this without passing judgement, which in my view is the true test of a good biographer. Too often history and biography falls prey to post-modern sensibilities and correctness.
This story is touching and sad. Read this biography and then re-read some of the classic Barrie novels, they will come to life for you. One of my best reads of the year, highly recommended!
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With the release of the film _Neverland_ to critical and popular acclaim, most people got their first introduction to the life of the creator of Peter Pan, James Matthew Barrie. Film biographies are notorious for their additions and deletions for dramatic or commercial purposes, and while _Neverland_ did fairly well in its telling of a limited part of the story, those who are interested in a larger and fuller picture will love reading _J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Real Story behind Peter Pan_ (Yale University Press) by Andrew Birkin, in a recent new edition. Birkin's work first came out in 1979, after his trilogy of television plays on the theme. He says he is interested in filming an authentic Peter Pan, and he could be trusted to do so, when the original has already been turned into pantomime, cartoon, and the update by Robin Williams and Stephen Spielberg. His loving, sad, and wonderfully illustrated biography shows him to be our leading authority on the story of Peter Pan and how it came to be told.

Barrie was born in 1861 in the weaving village of Kirriemuir in Scotland. When he was six, his older brother died, and Barrie realized that for their mother, the idealized elder brother would always be a boy of thirteen. The theme of the boy who never grew up was to be a constant in Barrie's novels and plays. He was notoriously quiet and shy, as he would be all his life, attracting little observation by others, but observing others constantly. He became a journalist and then a tremendously successful novelist and playwright. He married, but his real love was for children, and he and his wife (who left him for a lover fifteen years later) never had any.
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