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Neverland: J.M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan

2.98  ·  Rating Details ·  319 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
In his revelatory Neverland, Piers Dudgeon tells the tragic story of J. M. Barrie and the Du Maurier family. Driven by a need to fill the vacuum left by sexual impotence, Barrie sought out George du Maurier, Daphne du Maurier’s grandfather (author of the famed Trilby), who specialized in hypnosis. Barrie’s fascination and obsession with the Du Maurier family is a shocking ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 15th 2009 by Pegasus Books
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Sep 09, 2012 Benjamin rated it it was ok
I've never been more captivated by a book I respected less and less as I read each page.

Dudgeon starts with a valid premise, and one that he is not of course the first to write about: that J. M. Barrie manipulated his way into the Davies family, alienated Sylvia, the mother of the famous/notorious boys, from her husband, Arthur, and then, after both parents died, appropriated the boys despite their mother's actual intentions.

Beyond that, he even has some interesting points to make, that seem t
Dec 17, 2009 Spoffy rated it did not like it
Ick. This's gotta be one of the least pleasant books I've ever read. from page 1, Dudgeon paints Barrie as the most sinister, predatory, and destructive of men, with few (any?) positive traits, using innuendo and supposition to draw his morbid conclusions.

Honestly, I could not take any of his allegations seriously. (Even captain hook was not this one-dimensionally, irredeemably evil.) I don't know that much about Barrie, and he could very well have been a malevalent little creep, but there's no
Joy Lanzendorfer
Jan 11, 2011 Joy Lanzendorfer rated it did not like it
This book is bizarre. The writer, this Dudgeon fellow, goes far, far out on limbs without a shred of evidence to hold him up. He actually suggests that as a young man, Barrie killed his brother, a scenario Dudgeon freely admits he has zero evidence for. The whole book is speculation of this nature. Daphne du Maurier may have been molested by her father--Dudgeon leads me to believe this is a fact about her life--but I doubt that the molestation happened because the father was somehow under Barrie ...more
Sarah (Presto agitato)
I'm not sure quite what to say about this book. Parts of it were fascinating, but I found much of the wild speculation to be hard to swallow, especially with little in the way of sourcing to back the more far-fetched ideas. J.M. Barrie is depicted as a Svengali who manipulates and ultimately destroys the lives of the Llewelyn Davies boys (the real-life models for the Lost Boys of Peter Pan). I can buy that Barrie was a strange person who engaged in some sketchy behaviors. I can also buy that Bar ...more
Feb 17, 2016 Quirkyreader rated it it was amazing
I love the story "Peter Pan" and always will. My shelves can attest to it. I always new that J.M. Barrie was a unique character, but I didn't know how unsettling he was. He was one of those people who have to take over and be in charge of everything.

This book tells how he was enamoured of the Du Maurier family and how he influenced George Du Maurier's children and grandchildren. After reading this one will never see Barrie's writings as the same again.

This book also gives a brief insight to ma
Nov 06, 2009 Denis rated it really liked it
For anyone intrigued by the world and life of J.M.Barrie, and by the tragic circumstances surrounding his obsession with the family that inspired him to write Peter Pan, this book is a must-read. Dudgeon definitely sees Barrie as a malevolent, manipulative, extraordinarily destructive person, and that surprising approach makes for a wonderful read. Moreover, Dudgeon cleverly brings into the picture the Du Maurier family, which is filled with complex and totally screwed up characters that seem la ...more
Sep 07, 2012 Jane rated it liked it

In a large pot, mix together the following ingredients.
Bring them to a rolling boil.

1 quart of supposition
2 gallons of speculation
1 large measure of intrigue
1 heaping tablespoon of gossip

Throw in a few strands of dry fact and stir until dissolved. Cover the pot and simmer
until the argument is well reduced. Turn out of the pot, enrobe it in a spooky cover,
and you have this fine froth of a book.

I admit, I like to pick up those sensational magazines at the grocery store
May 18, 2010 Misfit marked it as to-read-library-has
From the jacket,

As D.H. Lawrence once wrote: J.M. Barrie has a fatal touch for those he loves. They die.

Oct 07, 2012 Kara rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, read-2012
This felt a bit like in the last book of the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", where Rita Skeeter writes an unauthorized biography of Albus Dumbledore. Yeah, it felt just as disgusting as that while I read this book, except it was in real life.

It isn't exactly new to suggest writers have problematic lives: many are drunks or drug-addicts (Hunter Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc.), many kill themselves (Hunter Tho
Mar 20, 2012 Persephone rated it did not like it
First off, I finished reading this book out of pure altruism: so you won't have to. All right, it's also because I paid for the damned thing. I found it in the bargain bin of my local bookstore and it certainly looked interesting.

And it's not a boring read, it's just a really really really irritating read. I was about a third of the way through when I pulled Andrew Birkin's J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys out of my shelves to remind myself what a good book on the subject is like. (And seriously, A
Dec 29, 2009 Shazzer rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting, if flawed, and not exactly what I was expecting. There were quite a few connections and ideas expressed here that I had not come across before, specifically the roles of hypnotism and "dreaming true" played in both Barrie's life with the Ll-D boys and with Daphne. Going back farther to explore George du Maurier and his influence (whether incidental or direct) was another new idea. I think the author makes several leaps of supposition throughout, especially later on in discussing Dap ...more
Candy Lund
Aug 20, 2012 Candy Lund rated it it was amazing

This was a fascinating book. I had never read Peter Pan but was a fan of Daphne Du Maurier. It is amazing that one individual, an outsider at that could cause so much damage to one family. Usually this sort of destruction is caused from within. It makes a read of Barrie's writings rather creepy.
Jul 13, 2016 Kirsty rated it liked it
When I stumbled across it during a fruitless Internet search for The du Maulers, I thought that Piers Dudgeon’s Neverland: J.M. Barrie, the du Mauriers and the Dark Side of Peter Pan sounded fascinating: ‘Neverland is a true story of genius and possession at a crossroads in time… Two suicides, a hundred-year-old family secret, and a resentful interloper with a desire to control the fate of those he loved set the scene’.

The book’s blurb alone is rather dark; it goes on to say, ‘Immediately after
Oct 17, 2016 Cindy added it
Shelves: abandoned
I'm interested in the subject, but this author does a terrible job. It's all over the place, with so many references to odd letters, books, and vague innuendo. He said, she said. Perhaps he did come to some valid conclusions, but I'm not willing to search through this mess for it.
Nov 28, 2015 Courtney rated it liked it
This "shocking" non-fiction look at the artisan Du Maurier family and J.M.Barrie, author of 'Peter Pan' in the role of evil interloper, leaves a lot to be desired.
Now, I am not a Barrie apologist. From reading 'Peter Pan' straight up, one might get the idea that its author was possibly a morbid pederast, or at the very least a lost, panting little soul. Peter Pan is wild, heathen, heartless, fey, and murderous. He is named after both 'Peter Ibbetson,' the title character of George Du Maurier's
Laura Medina
Oct 30, 2011 Laura Medina rated it really liked it
As informative and interesting as it was, this book about the real story behind "Peter Pan" and its creator J.M. Barrie left me wanting to cleanse myself. The creepyness level of Barrie is incredibly high. How this mainly insignificant man could take such psychological and physical control of two families is mind-boggling at the very least. Like a train crash waiting to happen you can't draw your eyes away from the pages as you try and figure out how he did. There is still so much more that isn' ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Michelle rated it it was ok
This is part biography, part expose, that focuses primarily on J.M. Barrie and his interactions with both the Davies and Du Maurier families. The book opens with the suicide of Paul Davies, one of the prototypes for the Lost Boys. Through the history, we learn that Barrie was a disturbed figure, that certainly had undue influence over the family and manipulated his way into taking over the family after the untimely deaths of the boys' father, followed by his mother. The book goes off on some lur ...more
Carl Williams
Jul 18, 2011 Carl Williams rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
A dark book, with a dark hypothesis.

If you like the image of J.M. Barrie as a shy man, more at home with kids than adults, reinforced by Johnny Depp in _Finding Neverland_ like I do, you will find the manipulated circumstantial evidence put forth hard to swallow.

Dudgeon weaves statements across generations and out of context to put forth this image of Barrie as a controlling mind-bending manipulator not above forgery and hypnosis to get what he wants. This may or my not be true, I suppose but t
Helen Southall
Mar 18, 2010 Helen Southall rated it liked it
What a creepy book this was - even more so because it is non-fiction. The author, who had worked with Daphne Du Maurier, wondered why she refused to release her personal diaries, etc until 50 years after her death. His research resulted in this true story of her family and of J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.

Barrie was a sadistic man who was obsessed with controlling the members of the Du Maurier family for two generations. His special interest were the 5 boys who were cousins to Daphne. Th
Brittany Flores
Dec 07, 2009 Brittany Flores rated it it was amazing
Totally a different take on Barrie's life than "Hide and Seek With Angels." This book holds a lot of biographical information about the Du Mauriers, the family Barrie was introduced to that lead to the Lewelyn Davies Boys. Kicky, the Grandfather of the boys (which included Peter), lead a very interesting life that mixed with experimenting with hypnosis. He also came in contact with so many literary scholars such as Henry James, Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, etc. The author, Dudgeon, has certainly done ...more
Once again we are shown that a beloved classic story is based in a dark and terrible reality. Dudgeon takes the reader through the lives of the various members of the DuMaurier family who were affected by J.M. Barrie. Whether or not Dudgeon's conclusions about how Barrie changed their lives are the actual truth, the indisputable facts still remain that several of the Llewelyn-Davies boys died tragic deaths.
I was particularly interested in how Daphne DuMaurier was related to this story, as I knew
Jan 06, 2010 Christine rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I worked and worked at this book but just had the most difficult time getting through it. In fact, I must admit I gave up and took it back to the library. The information was fascinating, but bizarre and rather twisted, making it difficult for me to want to continue. It's hard to imagine someone actually living a life so engrossed in hypnotism that they become obsessed with the subject and lifestyle surrounding it, despite the risks in ones sanity, but that is just was Du Maurier does. Barrie is ...more
May 02, 2015 Katherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
There is nothing wrong with the author's ability to tell the story of J.M.Barrie, author of Peter Pan, and his relationship with the DuMaurier family. The movie Neverland with Johnnie Depp romanticizes Barrie's relationship to a woman, Sylvia DuMaurier and her five sons, but the true story is disquieting and creepy. Mind control through hypnosis carried out by an impotent seriously flawed man results in suicide, nervous breakdowns, marital disintegration within two generations of this famous fam ...more
Three stars for the portion of the book that deals the relationship between George du Maurier, J. M. Barrie, and the sad fate of the unfortunate Llewelyn Davies boys, who helped inspire "Peter Pan" but who became ensnared in the author's manipulative web of emotional blackmail. If you have ever known people who are skilled at playing psychological games, there's plenty in that portion of the book to give you the shivers of recognition.

I hadn't realized what a wounded and fragmentary personality
Aug 15, 2011 Amanda rated it it was ok
This book was very interesting and eye-opening. And it was upsetting. I supposed Dudgeon was gonig for that effect in exposing Barrie to be the terrible person he truly was and the dark twisted story that Peter Pan was meant to be, but I kind of felt like maybe some of it was overboard. It kind of read like a long, drawn out conspiracy theory of J.M. Barrie's long thought out plot to destoy the Du Maurier family through hypnotism (in a nut shell).

But it was interesting to learn more about Barri
Mar 04, 2014 Aleksandra rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
J. M. Barrie as Satanic manipulator, insinuating himself in the lives of the family of Daphne du Maurier's cousins, the Llewelyn Davieses and ultimately destroying them. Seriously.
The main problem with the book is not as much its general concept (the author is not the first one to recognize Barrie's influence on the Llewelyn Davies boys as dangerous) as the sloppy and unreliable research. Generally, it consists of speculations on top of some more speculations, gossip and sensationalist tone. I
Bryn Adamson
Mar 06, 2013 Bryn Adamson rated it liked it
I bought this book at a used book store because I adore Daphne DuMaurier and I hadn't read anything about her life, nor did I know that she knew JM Barrie. I found parts of the research done quite interesting, but there were many suggestions and "leaps" made that just did not make any sense, Also, I must confess, that this story took me to places that were, I will say that it was well-written because it actually took me there, but....ewwww. I am glad to have this excellent ba ...more
Carolyn James
Jun 30, 2011 Carolyn James rated it did not like it
After watching the Film Neverland I was thirsty for more history into J.M. Barrie and the origin of Peter Pan. After finding out things weren’t as rosy as the movie portrayed things I was even more intrigued and quickly ordered this. I loved delving into the dark side of Neverland but MAN was this a hard read! The parts aside from Barrie and Peter Pan I found SO slow, SO wandering with no end point and SO disconnected. If I could chuck all that out I’d probably up the rating by two stars. It’s w ...more
Kay Robart
Jun 06, 2013 Kay Robart rated it it was ok
I am not criticizing this book for lack of interest–it is indeed engrossing. But Dudgeon hangs a great deal too much of his tale on the assumption that most of Barrie’s and both the du Maurier’s writings were autobiographical in some way. Even if they were, many of the quoted passages can be interpreted in more than one way. Barrie’s submersion of the children into a fantasy life certainly doesn’t seem to have been good for them, and as I said before, there is some indication in his own writings ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
Daphne du Maurier was a cousin to the Llewellyn-Davies family that was befriended by James Barrie. Barrie assumed a similiar role in her life following the death of her father Gerald.
Peter Dudgeon draws a parallel between the families with Barrie as a rather scary center, although the du Mauriers certainly had their moments even without him.
Like many during the late Victorian period George du Maurier, Barrie, and their friends were drawn to hypnotism, seances, and the parapsycholigical. Where it
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