- Paperback: 344 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; New Ed edition (July 11, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300098227
- ISBN-13: 978-0300098228
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Real Story Behind Peter Pan Paperback – July 11, 2003
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Silent Corner" by Dean Koontz
A dazzling new series, a pure adrenaline rush, debuts with Jane Hawk, a remarkable heroine certain to become an icon of suspense. See more
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"Mr. Birkin writes that he has tried to create ‘a documentary account,’ not an interpretive biography. He offers such a wealth of firsthand information that the book holds up 25 years after it was first published (it was reissued last year) and becomes a rich complement to the film. Beautifully designed, the book reproduces letters and diary entries from Barrie and his circle, as well as dozens of photographs."—Caryn James, New York Times
"His most acute biographer, Andrew Birkin, whose, J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys, has been granted a timely reissue. [It] digs up some astounding entries from Barrie’s private notebooks. Some are composed in the third person, as jottings toward a possible novel."—Anthony Lane, New Yorker
"For an insightful exploration of Barrie and the boys who inspired him, nothing rivals Andrew Birkin’s J.M. Barrie & the Lost Boys."—Norman Allen, Smithsonian Magazine
"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
"The best biography [of Barrie] is Andrew Birkin’s."—Cathy Schultz, Daily Southtown (Chicago)
"A definitive study."—New York Daily News
"[A] landmark biography."—David S. Skipper, Tallahassee Democrat
"The best [biography of Barrie]."—Matt Berman, Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
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Top Customer Reviews
Barrie has long been under critical scrutiny for his strange lifestyle. To add fuel to the debate, he even cautioned others against digging into his life: “May God blast anyone who writes a biography about me.” Despite the curse, dozens of accounts of his curious interest in young boys and pretty women have been published. Most have attempted to put an unnatural spin on his behavior leading to charges of stalking, voyeurism, and pedophilia. Andrew Birkin, in his extensive biography, J.M. BARRIE AND THE LOST BOYS, presents far-reaching and well documented information about Barrie’s relationship with the five young sons of the Llewelyn Davies family, as well as the mother, Sylvia, and, in less flattering fashion, with the father, Arthur. First published in 1979, Birkin has reissued several editions through the years, the latest being in 2004, bringing to light more details and updating others.
The work is masterfully constructed using material from notebooks, memoirs, correspondence, and interviews and includes a multitude of photographs, some taken by Barrie. Pictures of bare bottomed boys romping on the beach are some of the damning evidence against his behavioral patterns. The result is an exhaustive, almost tedious study of how a stunted and strange little man shoehorned himself into a family of beautiful people, usurping their trust to become a trusted family member with unlimited access to five lovely boys and a mother’s devotion. The youngsters became the characters who, along with their fictitious sister Wendy, followed Peter Pan to Never Never Land, a world of adventure that has fascinated readers for more than century.
Birkin has presented Barrie as a non-threatening acquaintance who truly loved each member of the family, possibly in substitution for his miserable childhood with an obsessive mother who could never overcome the grief of losing her favorite son when Barrie was only six years old. The Llewelyn Davies boys were beautiful and talented and accepted Barrie as a surrogate father, never shying away from his obsessive love or returning it. Some of his letters to the boys could be interpreted as carrying messages of pedophilia and are additional evidence of illicit behavior on the part of Barrie. But Birkin interprets them as one child addressing another in innocence; the photos are seen as normal to families of that era. He maintains Barrie was incapable of sexual intentions, incapable of any type of sexual behavior, and was simply a child who never grew up. None of the children in their adult years aver implicated Barrie in nefarious activity.
A beautifully written op-ed by Alexandra Gill in the April 20, 2004 issue of Toronto’s newspaper “The Globe and Mail” compares Barrie and Michael Jackson, both of whom had a fantasy land where they could be little boys again, enjoying the company of children, and even sleeping with them in innocent pleasure. It is in this context that I tend to think of Barrie as not so much a lecherous misfit as a highly ingenious person with a childish outlook There is a lot of evidence to the contrary and I’m still in the search mode. I love the intrigue of trying to sort it out.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES
Barrie was definitely an odd fellow and one can't help but compare him to the more modern example of Michael Jackson, another talented, rich celebrity who seemed to be unable to "grow up" and sought out the company of young boys. For example, the book includes passages from Barrie's book "The Little White Bird," a bestseller in its time but little known today, which describe an older man having a very young boy for a sleepover in his own bed in extremely loving and sentimental terms. If Barrie lived today, surely people would wonder if his interest in children, and particularly in the Llewellyn-Davies boys, was purely platonic, and he might even be the target of lawsuits. Yet, the Llewellyn-Davies boys who survived and provided source material for the book insist that Barrie was simply great, fun company and a true innocent, never making any passes at the boys. To a large extent, the author lets the source material, including Barrie's own notebooks, tell the story, without grafting on too much of his own analysis. My personal conclusion was that Barrie probably did not molest any of the Llewellyn-Davies boys (or other children with whom he spent time), but that as the boys matured he became passionately drawn to at least two of them, at least one of whom, Michael, was openly homosexual. It seemed like Barrie might well have eventually acted on his desires when the boys came of age - if the war and death had not tragically interfered.
This exceedingly well-researched book is enjoyable and easy to read, and will appeal to those who enjoy Victoriana and Edwardiana in general, as well as those seeking to learn more about the creator of "Peter Pan." The author includes many photographs, drawings and reproductions of other source materials such as letters and postcards, helping the reader to better picture the characters.
The main reason I gave this book four stars instead of five is that the book ends somewhat abruptly with the death of Michael, which Barrie took very hard because Michael, a talented young poet, was his favorite and best loved of the five boys. The death of Michael drove Barrie into such deep despair that he contemplated suicide. Yet, he did not kill himself and in fact went on to live for a number of years, wrote his last play, involved himself in various political activities, and had dealings with other children including the young Princess Margaret. Unfortunately, Barrie's life after Michael's death and his subsequent grieving is summarized in just a couple of pages. I would have liked to know more about how Barrie got over this devastating loss, and more about his daily life thereafter, especially since all the periods of his life up to that point are covered in some detail. As it is, I feel like the last chapters of the story are "missing" and I'll have to buy someone else's book on Barrie to fill in the blanks.
This book, J.M Barrie and The Lost Boys, is very well written and the story and many dozens of photos led me blithely through all the years of this sad man's life, his many plays and books, and the five boys he confiscated to the last years, never guessing what was to happen -- incident after incident, 7 or more times over! -- since somehow I have avoided this gruesome story in all the years of my reading (about 50 years). I think I am most impressed with Peter Davies' writings for the aptly titled and unpublished "Morgue", probably the most fair, true and unrestrained pieces of writing in any book, anywhere. It is gut-wrenching!
All these years after the fact, I am so sad for the Davies family as well as for the very troubled little man who devoured them. What a reading experience this was!