HOOKED by A.C.Wise
Titan, 334-page p/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Once the works of an author are out of copyright, the characters created enter the public domain and become fair game for others. There have been several approaches. Freda Warrington was commissioned to write Dracula the Undead, a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Wild Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys’s prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. There have been several reworkings of Jane Austin’s novels. Pride and Prejudice has been ‘enhanced’ by the addition of zombies and dragons (separately) to the original plot, and there have been numerous additions to A. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes catalogue. Even Winnie the Pooh is not immune, having been turned into a slasher horror movie.
A.C. Wise has targeted Peter Pan. In her first novel, Wendy, Darling, had a now adult Wendy returning to Neverland, this time in pursuit of her daughter Jane who has been stolen by Pan. This novel, Hooked, focuses on Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook. The narrative is split between London on the verge of war in 1939, Neverland in the present, and Neverland in the past. James is living in London with Samuel, who was the surgeon on Hook’s ship in Neverland. Hook is an opium addict. After a man near him is killed by a beast, leaving a shadow marked on the wall, Hook seeks out Wendy. She has her own concerns, as Jane’s flatmate has mysteriously died, leaving a shadow etched on her mattress. To resolve the issues these events engender, Jane and Hook have to travel back to Neverland. With them goes Michael Darling. He doesn’t remember his original visit to Neverland and suffers from shellshock as a result of experiences during the Great War.
Interspersed with the chapters outlining these events is the story of James, a young sailor who was washed up on the shores of Neverland and turned into Captain Hook by Pan. As Peter Pan was a boy, he wanted to play and turned Hook into an enemy he would always defeat, repeating the game endlessly, unaware of the cruelty of his actions.
The story here is very adult in its themes and much darker than the playful story J.M. Barrie produced. A. C. Wise has wrapped a number of important themes, but it is worth remembering that the setting is 1939. Not only is Hook a physically disabled person, but his relationship with Samuel is illegal. His lifestyle of drugs and drinking was his way of coping with the memories of his time in Neverland as Pan’s plaything. There is also a sensitive approach to Michael’s condition, which today would be diagnosed as PTSD and treated as a mental illness.
For those who want to remember the pantomime favourite as a charming children’s, it would be best to steer away from this volume, but for those who don’t mind the darker, more challenging side of folk tales, this becomes a good way to see how themes that are often ignored can be well handled.