Lisa Jensen wrote this beautiful retelling of Peter Pan from the view of the infamous pirate Captain Hook, a villain children have been taught to hate, the token grown up presence in Neverland. Much in the same vein of ‘Grendel’ by John Gardner or ‘Wicked’ by Geoffrey McGuire we learn the human side of Hook and how true Winston Churchill’s statement, “History is the story of the victors” is. In this case, the story of Peter Pan written by J.M. Barrie, a former Lost Boy enthralled with his hero Pan, is a very biased perspective of Neverland, Pan, and Hook.
Hook is a tragic character. We meet him 200 years after he was cursed to live in Neverland continually leading men to their death while battling Peter Pan. After his original crew were slaughtered by Peter Pan, Hook finds men, former Lost Boys that grew up and dreamed themselves back to Neverland,. They are littered in the forest with little memory of their adult lives. He takes them in, teaches them to fight, feed themselves, and take care of the ship. Few ever learn much before they die at the hands of Pan and his Lost Boys. It is a game to Peter, but Peter and Neverland need Hook, the antagonist, the grown up responsible for everything bad any grown up has ever done to children, the scapegoat.
This is a beautiful work of literary fiction about what it means to grow up mentally not just physically. Hook has his own reasons for being in Neverland. He did not end up there because he was a mature, healthy, or even rationale man. He did many bad things before he ever came to Pan’s territory. Parrish is an adult woman who appears in Neverland out of the blue. She should not be able to be in Neverland, she should not exist, she was not brought to the Island by Peter. She throws Hook’s whole world out of balance. Hook must find out why she is in Neverland and as he does so he slowly begins to trust, show kindness, and develop a friendship with her.
‘Alias Hook’ is a character driven piece of literary fiction. While there are battles with Pan, and Hook is a fearsome pirate, there is less action than one would think.There is large amount of introspection and if you are looking for a simple action/adventure this isn’t it. Jensen’s world building based on Neverland, an island most people can picture in their head either from Disney or our own child imaginings of Barrie’s tale, is unique, beautiful and rich with detail. This is a positive for me, but I could see how some would not enjoy the level of detail into Hook’s thoughts or the descriptions of Neverland flora and fauna.
I have a weak spot for retellings of villains. I enjoyed this immensely. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Grendel by John Gardner or a similar retelling, those that enjoy historical fiction, and literary fiction. It is touching and will leave you feeling good.
I received ‘Alias Hook’ by Lisa Jensen from Netgalley and St. Martins Press in exchange for an honest review.