Review Wednesday – Gerry McCullough Discusses “Wendy and the Lost Boys” by Barbara Silkstone.

Another Wednesday, another review. But not just another book.

Today our resident reviewer Gerry McCullough is taking a look at the most recent book by America’s star indie-writer comedienne Barbara Silkstone.

Barbara’s Wendy and the Lost Boys is one of the finest examples of indie publishing I can think of, and has deservely enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in the US recently as word spreads about Babara’s multi-layered writing style and many-faceted humor.

But I’m in danger of pre-empting Gerry’s review if I say any more, so I’d best let the professionals take over.

Here’s Gerry.

I first came across Barbara Silkstone and her Fractured Fairytales a couple of years ago on Authonomy, when I was amused and impressed by the excerpt from her first book, The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters, which I read there. The title not only draws on Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice, but also links the book to the very funny Adrian Mole, Aged 13 and Three-Quarters which I read with joyful laughter when the series first came out, years ago.

Alice in Wonderland was probably one of the first real books I read, as opposed to picture books. (My little sister was awarded it as a Sunday School prize when she was a bit young to be able to read it, so I seized on it, read it from cover to cover, and still have very happy associations with it.) So Barbara’s book – what should I call it? A take off? A pastiche? Or perhaps a tribute? – delighted me. Her funny, feisty heroine Alice, reminiscent of Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum, was a real find, and the thriller plot was gripping and page turning.

And now, here comes another equally attractive thriller with a connection to a much loved children’s book, Wendy and the Lost Boys. Confession time – I’ve never actually read Peter Pan. (And why on earth not, you may well ask? I don’t really know!) But I first saw the Walt Disney cartoon at quite a young age and was enthralled by it. I’ve since watched it with my children and found myself still loving it. So Barbara’s new book held an immediate strong appeal for me.

Wendy Darlin, like Barbara Silkstone’s earlier heroine Alice Harte, is funny, feisty, and Stephanie Plum-like, but, unlike most of the very funny minor characters, she is a realistically drawn individual whom we connect to straightaway and for whom we find ourselves rooting throughout the book. Wendy is soft-hearted. She allows herself to be sucked into trouble with the terrible (but very amusing) villain Charlie Hook, captain of the Predator, a pirate ship in modern terms, purely because she can’t turn down the appeals for help from Marni. Wendy doesn’t even like Marni much, but she is the daughter of an old friend, and Wendy feels that she has to step in, and onto Hook’s yacht. So here she goes, plunging into a set of events which are hair raising, exciting, and laugh out loud funny; and meeting up with a set of characters whose idiosyncrasies make them by turns appealing, revolting, funny and terrifying.

Beginning with her husband Croc (Hook’s enemy – representing the crocodile in the original) and Roger Jolley (attractive apart from his brown wingtip shoes, but introducing himself as one of the dreaded SEC people) Wendy collects a number of strange and fascinating people around her. The weird array made up of Joseph, Mary, Annie, and Granddaddy Earl has to be read to be believed – if then! We are in a fantasy world, with people – at least the minor characters – who, like those of Alice in Wonderland, are caricatures, but still in some sense real and easy to relate to. But at the end of the day, it’s Wendy herself who sorts things out, solves the mysteries, and defeats the villain, while solving her own past hang-ups at the same time.

Barbara Silkstone has a real knack of not only naming her characters, but also of creating their idiosyncrasies, to fit in with her original. Wendy’s long lost boyfriend, Peter Payne, for instance, left her because he didn’t want to grow up and face the real world. But Silkstone shows us the dangerous side of this attitude, not just its attraction, unlike Barrie. And the secret of The Lost Boys, and whom they turn out to be, is both original and convincing.

If you like your thrillers to be fast moving, full of action, and with a surprise ending, this is for you. If you like your heroines warm hearted, brave, with a desire for justice but with occasional foolhardiness, this is for you. If you like a writer to be witty, skilful with words, and able to throw in the odd touch of enchantment in her descriptive passages, this is for you. (Mind you, you need to be happy with a fair bit of humour of the type not suitable for the original audience of Peter Pan or Alice, such as the recurring joke about Hook’s UpUGo, which I won’t spoil for you.) And if you like an ongoing touch of romance for your heroine, with various candidates for her affections, and a bit of a mystery as to whom she’ll end up with, resolved beautifully at the end, this also is for you.

Sound like your type of book? Wendy and the Lost Boys is definitely mine!

Thanks, Gerry.

I know you’re all dying to rush off and buy this, so let’s just add here that Wendy and the Lost Boys can be found on amazon.com here and amazon.co.uk here.

If Gerry has also tempted you to buy Barbara’s other book, you”ll find Barbara’s Alice on amazon.com here and on amazon.co.uk here. For Barbara’s  The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men and One Woman you’ll need to go to amazon.com here and amazon.co.uk here.

You can find Barbara’s blog here.

*

Rather appropriately I read Wendy and the Lost Boys while stranded on a sandbank on a ferry on the River Gambia, being watched by hungry barracuda and bemused dolpins. Not to mention the mystified expressions of my fellow strandees, wondering what I found so amusing staring at this strange sheet of plastic in my hands, while everyone else was wndering if we would get home for dinner or end up as the barracuda’s dinner. Which just made the book all the more enjoyable.

Now you’re probably thinking, if I loved this book so much why didn’t I write the review myself. Well, I did put  a review on Amazon. here’s what I had to say:

This was just so much fun!

Right from the first page this story grabs your attention with laugh-out-loud one-liners that make it an embarrassment to read in public. But there’s much more than just comedy here. There is an intellectual underlay and a sharp, concise writing syle that sets this quite apart from the many other satirical / allegorical takes on the classics.

Without giving anything away, let’s just say I am in awe of the Lost Boys and the shadow problem, which a lesser writer might have reduced to farce, but here simply left me in awe.

From Barbara’s other books I had high hopes for Wendy & The Lost Boys, but this is easily the jewel in the Silkstone crown.

But be warned, this is not a book for children. This is the book where Peter Pan grows up. As does Hook, in a way JM Barrie might just have approved.

Highly recommended!

You can see why I leave the reviews to Gerry!

Next week here on MWi’s Review Wednesday it will be Charley Roberts’ turn to deliver the verdict, and on trial will be Marion G. Harmon’s superhero sensation Wearing the Cape.

For those unfamiliar, Gerry is the author of the highly-acclaimed Belfast Girls, which has had a great reception in the US and UK as well as Gerry’s homeland in Northern Ireland. Belfast Girls is available from amazon.com amd amazon.co.uk.

Gerry latest book is called Danger Danger. Available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

Gerry blogs regularly here.

*

Tomorrow will be the official announcement if the release of Anne R. Allen’s latest book, Sherwood Ltd. If you like the sound of Wendy and the Lost Boys you’ll love Sherwood Ltd. Pop by by tomorrow to find out why.

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    • Pj Schott
    • December 7th, 2011

    A great book from a great broad.

  1. Thank you Gerry and Mark. What lovely reviews.
    Alice and Wendy send their regards.
    UpUGo!

    Pj…
    Thanks, 🙂
    A Great Broad.

    • Miriam Joy
    • December 7th, 2011

    Ahhhh – why would you EVER watch the Disney cartoon of Peter Pan? No, no, no, no, no! That thing is AWFUL! (Admittedly, I have a dislike of Disney films and I’m not a massive fan of most other animations either. But still.) It’s nothing compared to the book! Nothing. Noooo, I’m sorry, but this makes me unhappy 😦 Read the book!

    • Disney is as Disney does. I boycoted them fro a while after watching the Little Mermaid (despite the fact I can sing Ariel’s song). Afterall they completely changed the ending. BUT I’ve come to realize they satisfy the need for people to have happy endings and take them as artful entertainment and don’t compare them to the books the movies are based upon.

      Heck even Dreamworks does the Disney thing, as I have “Shreik” by Wiliam Stieg at home and wel… lets say the movie took the characters and typical boy meets girl and falls in love plot and went their own direction with it. :}

    • “why would you EVER watch the Disney cartoon of Peter Pan?” Probably because our parents gave us little choice, Ms Mim.

      Besides, leaving aside the political and social undertones Disney cartoons are great entertainment, so long as you don’t look for accurate renditions of the original stories being adapted.

      Barbara’s next book is Snow White and I’m intrigued to find out if she, like us, draws heavily on the Disney classic for references, simply because it’s the most widely know version of the story.

        • Miriam Joy
        • December 8th, 2011

        I don’t like the whole “princess” thing, like guys are the only thing that matter to a girl. I don’t like happy endings. And I don’t like animated films, I much prefer life action. I’ll deal with it occasionally (I do intend to go see Tintin. The cartoons of that were awesome.) but it is never my first choice. So, Disney isn’t really the best thing for me.

        That said I do like Disney live-action things, like Pirates of the Caribbean, which I can quote with alarming accuracy.

        • Some of their newer ones arn’t nearly as Bad. In fact Tangled is pretty awesome (I know Charlie will agree) and in The Frog Prince, he wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for her. *grin* Disney is changing with the times.
          But I am also well aware you don’t like happy endings. :} Still as I said before – they satisfy the need for people to have happy [sappy] endings, which is a good majority of the world. :}

  2. Awesome review! Not sure if I’m quite old enough to appreciate the sort of humour I suspect to find in there (unless that’s just my brain having a rendezvous with the gutter) but it looks like barrels of fun! Great review Gerry! 🙂

    • It’s mature humor without being ribald adult humor, Charley, and while your parents and teachers probably wouldn’t approve, it’s certainly not X-Rated or anything like that. You’d love it!

  3. You know I didn’t read Peter Pan until just recently. Then I tried to read it to my kids (ages 3 and 5 at the time) but the chapters were too long for them and it lacked pictures. So I went to “The Wonderful Wizard of OZ”, with great sucess (they are also now 4 and five days from 6) and we’re reading “The Road to Oz” now.

    Think Barbara will ever tackle the land of Oz? L. fank baum wrote quite a few stories about that land.. but I think just doing the first and more well know book could be a hoot. *grin*

    And Charley gets to do a review? How Fun!

    :} Cathryn

  4. I would be very surprised if Barbara doesn’t tackle Oz in a future book, Cathryn. I think it’s a Silkstone satire waiting to happen, and I’ll be first in the queue when it does!

    As for reading Peter Pan to kids… Like many “children’s classics” they weren’t really written with kids in mind. Better to find an abridged version with illustrations that will capture the story and their imagination, and leave the original for a later time.

  5. Miriam, so sorry you don’t like Disney cartoons – I really think you’re missing out – just as kids a while ago missed out by being persuaded that Enid Blyton was boring and middle class and non PC. I make absolutely no apologies for loving Disney – still.
    Barbara, Mark and Charley, I’m very glad you enjoyed my review. It’s easy to review a first rate, really enjoyable book like this.

      • Miriam Joy
      • December 8th, 2011

      I read some Enid Blyton for a while. I liked the Faraway Tree – we read that at school when we were five/six. The Famous Five and that, however, I hated. I just really didn’t like them. I’ve always read everything and anything but they were one of the series that I just couldn’t carry on reading.

      • The Magic Faraway Tree is one of the best children’s books EVER witten. Along with the Wishing Chair adventures TMFT is in aleague of its own. But Blyton’s best book by far is The Land of Far Beyond.

        Agree the Famous Five are dreadful, but the Five Find-outers and dog were brill (apart from the dog).

  6. Thank you all. This was a lovely experience. I’m so happy you enjoyed the humor. Yes, Snow White is on my radar. Oz is a great idea. Hmm… we shall see.

    • Barbara, you just KNOW you want to do Oz now. I shall keep pestering you till you do!

    • If you do I promise to buy it and every other book you’ve written of these fractured fairy tales (if I haven’t already, cause Santa’s totally getting me an e-reader this christmas) :}

  7. Great book! Barbara does a brilliant job fracturing this fairy tale.

  8. What a great review of what sounds like a hilarious book. Exactly my kind of read. Might be the very first thing I read on the new Christmas Kindle Santa has promised me.

    If Barbara goes Oz, we may have duelling Dorothys. My next book is going to be called No Place Like Home and features former Kansan Dorothy Wisnowsky and a band of scruffy homeless sleuths on the path of a missing financial wizard.

    We may have to collaborate one of these days, Barbara.

    Thanks for this great review, Gerry!

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