Lately I’ve been seeing previews for the new movie Pan, which will be coming out in October of this year. It looks like a high tech, serious special effects, origin story for Peter Pan, complete with “chosen one” mythology and orphans fated to save the world, and (as you can guess from this short and biased description) I’m almost certainly not going to go see it. But even if it had been a serious remaking of Peter Pan and not a crass scheme to make more money from a classic play, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in seeing it, because my entire outlook on Peter Pan has been changed ever since I read Alias Hook, by Lisa Jensen.
Alias Hook, as the title suggests, is one of those novels that reimagines a classic, well-known story from another point of view. I tend to be a sucker for those kinds of stories, ever since I read Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, which is an excellent and powerful telling of the story of the “madwoman in the attic” from Jane Eyre (if you haven’t read that one, I highly recommend it, even if you haven’t read Jane Eyre recently or at all).
This one tells the story of one James Benjamin Hook, an intelligent, witty man caught in an endless loop of misery in which he and his band of hapless pirates is repeatedly destroyed and killed (they’re killed; he’s kept alive to torture) by a horrible group of preadolescent boys — Peter Pan and his Lost Boys. Imagine every horrible boy you’ve ever known, given infinite power to rig the game, change the rules, and wreak havoc on people who can’t escape. That’s Peter Pan, and his cohort follows his lead in everything. At the beginning of the book, Hook has all but given up on any possibility that he could ever escape, but then suddenly Pamela, an adult woman, not a “Wendy”, appears in Neverland, and all bets are off. Who is she? What brought her to this place where she has no role to play in the ongoing and repetitive story of Peter Pan and his exploits against Captain Hook? Could she possibly be the harbinger of change? Could James hope, at long last, that his misery could come to an end and he might be able to return to the real world?
In the same way that once you’ve read Wicked, you can never look at The Wizard of Oz in the same way again (although it is kind of a mind-bending experience to look at Margaret Hamilton’s performance of the Wicked Witch of the West and try to imagine her as Elphaba), once you’ve read Alias Hook, you’ll never again see Peter Pan as a hero, or Captain Hook as an unworthy villain. Read and enjoy!