Wendy, Darling by A. C. Wise

Cover of Wendy, Darling, with illustrated figures of three people, two holding hands, flying upwards from a London cityscape

I’ve loved the story of Peter and Wendy since I was a little girl, and it took this story with its unique perspective to remember how much I truly hated the original.

How the boys went to war, and Wendy was relegated to tying false bandages on false wounds, making dinners made of nothing, and being a mother to boys who never want to grow up.

As though a girl can never really be a girl.

But Wendy is no ordinary girl now. She’s a woman. She went home after Neverland and was never the same – and it’s Peter’s fault.

From the heart thundering start when Wendy senses Peter’s return, to the awful moment he mistake’s Wendy’s daughter Jane for Wendy herself, this book’s genteel horror caught me in a net. Ensnaring, playful, threaded with half truths and lies, it’s a cleverly woven telling of what came after when Wendy grew up.

This book explores the tale from Wendy’s perspective, alternating between her quest to retrieve her daughter, and the awfulness of her return from Neverland. That no one believed her, until her brother had no choice but to have her committed.

We then see the island of Neverland not quite like it was before with Jane, and her adventures with Peter and the Lost Boys. Except the boys are truly lost, Jane doesn’t remember her own name, and Peter is ever there, ready for another game that makes no sense and the rules always change.

Between the two, glimpses of dread start to emerge, a far starker and grim fate for those who once populated the island, but there are other horrors to come. Neverland has a secret, a darkness at it’s heart and Wendy must face it to save Jane.

Wise’s prose is phenomenal – it drags you into a visceral world you can feel, emerges you in sensations with aching moments of almost prose like writing that’s simply put, gorgeous. I fell into these moments, forgot where I was or what I was doing, and in that I think is possibly my only criticism. Sometimes I’d forgotten where in the story we were up to when we returned, or that the memory or moment had a purpose. Dropped back into the story, it wasn’t disjointed so much as disorientating, and that may have been the intent.

For much of the story we spend with Wendy in the asylum where no one believes her, to Jane who’s so influenced by Peter she forgets her own name, struggles to remember that she’s not really Wendy, it’s a delicate mental balance beautifully written. The pair and their view of one another, and what it means to be a mother, what it means to be a woman in a place and time where they are little more than objects, was so well told it hurt.

I’ll never see Peter in quite the same light again, and I feel all the more powerful for it thanks to this book.

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