My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I had time for Karen Wallace’s stiffly written, dark, and yet strangely intriguing Climbing A Monkey Puzzle Tree, and so I came to Wendy with some interest. A prequel of sorts to the deliciously complex Peter Pan, Wendy tells the story of the Darling household and of the “intrepid, outspoken and wilful” Wendy herself. The household is not in well state; there are secrets, mysteries, “cruelty and hypocrisy”.
It is not an easy book this, nor a likable one, but something about Wallace’s prose does appeal to me. I’m not sure that I like it though; I’m not sure that I like a book so determined to see beyond the gloss and glitter of the world, so determined to bring a darkness to a world that perhaps does not warrant such. But then, who am I to decide the parameters of a fictional space for someone else? Books like this always make me so very conscious of the role of the reader and of their reading; that space that everyone has with a book, coloured and shaped to their individualistic read. My read is not yours, nor should I expect it to be. And for some reason with Wendy, I am reminded of the darkly complex Chalet Girls Grow Up by Merryn Williams; a book with its own complexities of space and of tone and of anger and of rage, rage against the dying of the light and the furious nature of humanity.
I am not sure what to make of Wendy, really, but I know this: it is a book which I do not recommend easily, nor fulsomely. I do recommend it as something for those interested in the space around readerly responses to classic texts, as something for those who are interested in the nature of people’s reading of texts and of their ability to see things in the space that is forgotten or over-read by others. Wallace’s text is beautiful at points, brief, sharp, crystalline, and at others, it is something quite dense and dark and unfathomable. A book of contrasts this, a book of the darkest darkness with the briefest and most ephemeral moments of light. But I am still not sure that I liked it, not at all.