Thursday, 10 April 2008


I'm looking forward to reading a new book by Piers Dudgeon, who I met a couple of years ago at the Du Maurier festival in Fowey, when we did an event together on Daphne and the macabre. It's called 'Captivated: J.M Barrie, the du Mauriers and the Dark Side of Neverland', and I've just emailed Piers, asking for a proof copy, as soon as they are available. I avoided making Barrie a central character in my novel -- (and yes, I confess, I was a bit spooked by Barrie's promise to curse anyone who attempted to write about him after his death!) -- but he is definitely a presence in 'Daphne', standing in the stage wings. He's such a mysterious, enigmatic character; far more elusive, I think, than Johnny Depp's portrait of Barrie in "Finding Neverland" (though Depp is never less than interesting to watch). On the basis of previous conversations with Piers, I know that he sees Barrie as deeply sinister, and that certainly comes across in the synopsis of his book, which I'm including here:

"Captivated" is a true story of genius and possession. The background is the turn of the century, when a late-nineteenth-century world of mesmerists, psychics, trancers and table-turners gave way to a new twentieth-century age of psychology. The central character is the creator of Peter Pan, the famous novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie, a man tormented by inner demons since childhood. Barrie developed a consuming interest in the du Maurier family, beginning with George du Maurier, author of "Trilby", a bestselling novel featuring his creation Svengali. In "Trilby", George showed how it is possible, by means of hypnosis, for one person to gain control over the mind of another. Barrie made his move on the du Maurier family immediately after George died, assuming George's mantel and using his ideas to dominate both his daughter Sylvia and his son Gerald.Soon Barrie was 'Uncle Jim' to Sylvia's five sons and Gerald's three daughters, playing romping games of adventure and make-believe, and inviting the children into the transcendental world of Neverland. Four of the boys (the 'lost boys' of "Peter Pan") and one of the girls (the imaginative tomboy Daphne) were captivated.
This fascinating book delves deep, makes links and yields up secrets. It is a story of bliss corrupted by greed which masquerades as supernatural power. It tells how Barrie's victims - whom he would have not grow up - were lost to breakdown, suicide or an early death when they did. Daphne du Maurier, author of "Rebecca", emerges as the lost boys' surprise companion and the enigmatic chronicler of their fate."Captivated" is about writing and the world of the imagination: it is a singular example of art being used not only to imitate life, but darkly to transform it. Piers Dudgeon knew Daphne du Maurier and worked with her in the 1980s. When he discovered that she had put a moratorium on publication of her adolescent diaries until fifty years after her death, he was prompted to begin his researches into her background. What was the mystery that had Daphne been so keen to suppress?


Bront√ęBlog Adm. said...

Oh, that's interesting! I knew the Llewelyn Davis and the du Mauriers were cousins but up until very recently I thought they were sort of seperate. I was unaware that there were quite so close and that they shared a "J.M. Barrie childhood".

I recently read, however, Daphne du Maurier's son saying that the diaries don't tell anything really very big, despite the moratorium. Still, it's so intriguing, isn't it?

And as we were saying the other day about the telefilm Daphne - perhaps it's not the aftual real story, but Finding Neverland told a good one and I found Johnny Depp as the (fictional) J.M.Barrie totally charming.

I seriously need to get myself a copy of J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys, right?


Clare Dudman said...

That sounds fascinating! 'Finding Neverland' gave an intriguing hint of weirdness, I thought - I'd love to read more, at depth.

Justine Picardie said...

It's true, Daphne's son Kits -- her literary executor -- has read the diaries, and says they're not filled with dark revelations about Barrie. But I'm still fascinated! And I agree, Finding Neverland does give a hint of the weirdness of it all. Andrew Birkin has written a wonderful book about Barrie and the Lost Boys.

dovegreyreader said...

This sounds like a compelling read Justine, something about JMB has always spooked me too, despite the Barrie bequest to GOS and with it the requirement there to see him as a sort of benevolent uncle to all poorly children. The Lost Boys a must-read Cristina and I must revisit it too perhaps with my work hat on and see what I make of it all.

Atticus said...

Just discovered your blog, not by virtue of Daphne du Maurier but of J M Barrie. I'm presently wading through 'Captivated' and looking forward hopefully to reading your views on it here.

Anonymous said...

i have never heard of this writer, has he written any other book too?

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