Sunday, June 20, 2010

Neverland by Douglas Clegg

Before starting to read this book you have two choices:

1. If you are a thrill seeker, who loves horrors and wants to be chilled to the bone: read this book at night, under your duvet with a flashlight (preferably on a stormy night) and if you're feeling really dare-devilish, find that old teddy you used to cling to when you were a kid (the more worn looking the better) and stick it the end of the bed. . . trust me on this. . .

2. If you are a scaredy cat (like moi), who has nightmares from the trailers of horror movies, then please read this book during the day, in the sunshine, surrounded by tweeting birds and the comforting presence of your very big and lovable dog (pet), who is nice and alive and happy and not screaming :)

This book tells the story of Beau, a young boy on the precipice of adulthood, who visits, almost every summer, his eccentric grandmother at her home on Gull Island with his family. Everything seems to be normal enough (by his family's dysfunctional standards)until Beau follows Sumter, his cousin to an old shack, 'Neverland'. From there, Beau is pulled into a world of gods, shadows and sacrifices - a place where 'Lucy' lives and the living scream. . .

*Spoiler Alert*

As you've probably realised I fall into category 2 of the readers that I mention above. Ireland is having a rare heatwave, and after an exhausting few weeks I decided to treat myself with this book. I received this book for review a good few weeks ago, but I think you have to be in the right mood for it. Sitting out in the sun, with my dog resting on my lap, I cracked it open.

Neverland, similar to Harper Lee's To kill a Mockingbird, has the unique ability to transport you to a very different place, where you can almost feel the heat of the Southern sun on your back, or hear the gulls over head - where you feel your world fall away and be replaced by Gull Island and Neverland.

Neverland pulls you in and leads you by the hand down a certain path, where we see Beau as part of a normal dysfunctional family trying to figure out the world of adults and his place within that world - it is then you realise that the path you've been lead down has brought you to a very dark place (think 'lord of the flies'), where as John Betjamen says in his poem Original Sin, "the devil walks".

Douglas Clegg does a wonderful job at portraying this intense suffocating sort of fear which surrounds Neverland - it's a children's secret where the rules of adults don't apply. Surrounded by arguments, hurt and drink, Neverland tackles numerous themes revolving around 'growing up' and understanding the world of adulthood. 'Neverland' the place is like the perverse version of Peter Pan's Neverland - it makes the same promises but at a terrible price. Clegg's reason for the reasons behind 'Neverland' was brilliant - it made a nice change from the usually 'ghosts and supernatural' elements which I expected - the psychologist in me rejoiced ;)

Although I really enjoyed this book, there were one or two things that didn't sit right. I realise (and big spoiler here) that Sumter was meant to be different and I realise the negative influence he had on the entire family dynamics but I think that Sumter would have had a stronger impact if he had been likable at the beginning. I think a transformation from this to the 'priest' would have been more horrifying, rather than portraying Sumter as a sociopath from the beginning.

Similarly I felt Uncle Ralph was portrayed as quite villainous (which I realise from a child's pov he would seem to be) and I felt there could have been scope to show us more about him and make me at least care when he died (it's a bad sign when you're rooting for the homicidal bear?).

Also I felt that Neverland lost a significant amount of its magic when more and more people knew about 'Lucy'. I felt the intensity and fear lessened when Beau's two sisters became involved and the intense intimate fear which the novel has throughout disappears once the adults (not including the granny) become involved and aware of Neverland.

That being said, Neverland is a page turner, it keeps you in the moment right till the end and I really enjoyed it (and am glad I read it during the day) - Douglas Clegg is an excellent writer and I think that overall the book is a great read and would (and have already) recommend it to others.


Shellie - Layers of Thought on June 22, 2010 at 10:00 PM said...

So awesome - its scary... I kinda skipped the middle bit since its on my tbr pile....

I am not a scaredy cat even a bit. I am of the number one type.

JessG on June 23, 2010 at 2:23 PM said...

Good review Emily! I read through it all since I'm in the #2 type group. I probably wouldn't make it through the daytime hours with my puppy by me. Lol. I don't know why, but ever since I read Dean Koontz books I can't find myself picking up any horror books lately. Last one I read was The Devouring by Simon Holt and it really wasn't that scary, just a bit more gory than I'd like to read.

But I'm glad I read your review, I am curious about how it everything goes in the story, but I don't know when I'll pick it up. Maybe when I have more guts to just read it during the day.

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