Captivated: J. M. Barrie, Daphne du Maurier and the Dark Secret of Neverland
‘Barrie has a fatal touch for those he loves. They die.’ D. H. Lawrence.
This fascinating and disturbing book unravels the subtle and deadly mixture of manipulation, fantasy and control with which J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, entangled a number of child victims. The most famous examples are the orphaned Llewellyn-Davies boys, but their tomboy cousin, Daphne du Maurier, was also profoundly affected by Barrie’s games.
Dudgeon begins with the children’s grandfather, George du Maurier, author of Trilby, which features the hypnotist, Svengali, and Peter Ibbetson, which centres on ‘dreaming true’, that is, being able to communicate even when apart. Both became best-sellers and influenced the 1890s generation. He demonstrates how George du Maurier’s interest in hypnosis and dreaming true fed into Barrie’s psychological need to have emotional control over those he loved.
Dudgeon is good at asking the right questions, particularly about Barrie’s own tragic and dysfunctional childhood. This, together with his long view covering several generations, allows him to disentangle the threads and examine not only how Barrie was able to take over the Llewelyn-Davies boys so completely, but also how they, and Daphne du Maurier, ended up deeply disturbed and, in some cases, destroyed, by him. Highly recommended.