Robyn Reviews: Peter Pan (Mina Lima Edition)

The story of Peter Pan, first published in 1904, has been adapted so many times that most are familiar with the core elements of the story. In this edition, Mina Lima have republished the original with a number of deluxe illustrations and interactive elements, from the crocodile’s clock with moveable hands to a pull-out newspaper detailing the events in Kensington Gardens while the children are in Neverland. The story itself is obviously dated but still holds an element of magic, and the added extras are fun and creative. While this appears to be aimed at collectors, each interactive component would appeal to children.

Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up, loses his shadow in the home of Mr and Mrs Darling and their three children. He returns to the house to look for it – but along with his shadow, leaves with the children too. Wendy, John, and Michael fly to Neverland to join the Lost Boys, a band of children Peter has similarly collected. Wendy becomes the Lost Boys’ mother, and they live a dreamlike life, punctuated only by the threat of Captain Hook and his band of pirates. However, the dream is not all pleasant. Their lives are lived according to Peter’s whims – and the longer they spend on the island, the more they start to forget the life they lived before. As time seeps by at an unknowable rate, the children must decide whether to stay on Neverland and never grow up – or return home to the comfort of a normal life.

The writing style is typical of the era, with a level of detachment, but it still creates an excellent atmosphere – darker and more eerie than modern adaptations would have you believe. Mina Lima add addendums to explain some of the more dated terminology, making it accessible to the modern reader. Neverland is a wonderfully creative example of fabulism – a delightful place where nature is in harmony with its inhabitants and mermaids and fairies are as normal as cats and dogs. The balance between the dark atmosphere and keeping things child appropriate is struck well.

Certain aspects have dated more than others. The references to the Redskins, with terms like savages, are inappropriate in modern literature. Similarly, while the Lost Boys go on adventures, Wendy’s only purpose is to look after them – she does the cooking and the laundry, tucks them into bed at night, and can only be the damsel in distress. However, by staying entirely faithful to the original story, the reader is given a window into society at the time and their expectations, even in their fantasies. Some of the magic is lost, but the cleverness and imagination is still apparent.

The Mina Lima edition is beautifully presented in a high-quality hardback that looks wonderful on the shelf – especially with its companions in the Mina Lima classics set. There are currently seven, with an eighth due to be published this year. Inside, each chapter has a full colour introductory illustration, and within the chapters are more illustrations and pop-out design elements. There are fairy wings which flap, a clock with moveable hands, and a multi-part diagram with insight into the children’s brains (one of my favourite elements, as scientifically inaccurate as it is). The only downside of these elements is that some have metal pins in, and whilst MinaLima have included pieces of card to protect the surrounding pages, they do still get damaged with repeated reading. While each element is great fun to explore, this is clearly more of a collectors product that doesn’t stand up to too much wear and tear.

Overall, the Mina Lima ‘Peter Pan’ is a faithful adaptation of the original story with some fun, attractive extras. For fans of classic children’s stories it makes an excellent addition to the shelf.

Published by Harper Collins
Hardback: 2nd June 2015

Book Review: Thank You, Jeeves

Thank You, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse, is one of a series of five classic Jeeves and Wooster novels being reissued by Arrow. Wodehouse was a prolific author, much admired for the gentle humour and droll sense of the ridiculous. Having last read any of his work several decades ago I was interested to see how I would react in the changed climate of contemporary care over expression. Certain terms jarred, and rightly, but the underlying wit and warmth remains.

In this tale Bertie Wooster has taken up a musical instrument, the banjolele. The noise he makes while playing sparks complaints from his London neighbours which he first hears about from a little liked acquaintance, Sir Roderick Glossop. Unwilling to countenance the idea of abandoning his art Bertie decides to move to the country where there are fewer people to annoy. He is shocked when his gentleman’s gentleman, Jeeves, declines to accompany him, going so far as to resign when it becomes clear that Bertie will continue to make his music within the confines of a small cottage. Undeterred, Bertie pursues his plan anyway.

The cottage is rented from his old school friend, Lord Chuffnell, who resides at his stately pile nearby. On hearing that Bertie has let Jeeves go, Chuffy has snapped him up having cleared this course of action with his pride-deflated friend. Bertie discovers that Chuffy has fallen head over heels in love with an American heiress, Pauline Stoker, who unbeknown to Chuffy was once engage to Bertie. Pauline’s father put a swift end to their planned nuptials on hearing tales of Bertie’s exploits from Sir Roderick. All of these characters are now, for a variety of reasons, visiting Chuffnell Regis, and the comedy of errors may begin.

The language is over the top in its expression and inventive wit, which fits perfectly with the characters and their misadventures. Added to the mix are a pair of zealous policemen, and two young boys who could be loved only by their mothers. Bertie concocts various plans to bring his friends together, only to have them backfire. The tale includes a kidnapping on a luxury yacht, a devastating fire, and Bertie being forced to go without breakfast. Throughout it all Jeeves remains calm, offering information and advice to save the day.

This is escapist reading for those happy to immerse themselves in a privileged world without worrying about the wider implications. It is fun and easy within that freedom. In today’s censorious climate some of the humour could draw ire, although given the caustic nature of much modern comedy this is gentle. That I am afraid to laugh too loudly for fear someone will condemn me suggests I feel shackled. Wodehouse’s world may be anachronistic but his writing can be enjoyed if read in the context of its creation.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Arrow Books.