Lisa Jensen’s new adult fantasy explores a new twist on Neverland
We’ve all read J.M. Barrie’s masterpiece “Peter Pan”—or at least seen Disney’s version of it—and I daresay fallen a little bit in love with the idea of Neverland. A place brimming with mischievous mermaids, evil pirates and roving bands of flying children sounds so completely magical after all, and we all need a little magic in our lives. But what if there were a dark side to Neverland? A side where an 18th century privateer named James Hookbridge (aka Capt. Hook) becomes ensnared in the enchanted land, trapped forever as the indulgent plaything in a little boy’s fantasyland?
In other words, Neverland is far from what it seems in “Alias Hook,” Lisa Jensen’s new adult fairy tale.
The directions to Neverland are vague at best: second star to the right and straight on ’til morning—at least that’s how Peter arrived. But in the grown-up world, it’s a little more complicated. Drawn by the idea of wealth and power, Hookbridge leaves his comfortable life in England to try his hand on the high seas, and sets off for his father’s plantation in the Caribbean. He becomes ensnared in the dark world of privateering, an old-timey profession mere steps away from all-out piracy. The trade intoxicates him, and he easily gives up love in favor of a life of excitement.
But his choices lead to condemnation, and banishment to the Neverland, a place where he can never die, a dream world where he exists for the sole purpose of war games to mollify a spoiled boy. Hook longs for death, but his enchantment is such that he is eternal, and his life is spent in a stupor of rum and constant torment over his past. Things change when a grown woman dreams her way into the Neverland, and Hook realizes there may be something left to live for after all.
Set both in Hook’s present Neverland, as well as in his past as a child and young man of early 18th century England, “Alias Hook” has a wonderful historical quality, with fabulous words and phrases from a bygone era dancing on the page. But even though Jensen may have set her fairy tale in the same imaginary land as Mr. Barrie’s, her story is most decidedly grown up. Colorful language, tippling governesses and sexy mermaids are nowhere to be seen in the children’s version, but will keep adult readers titillated in this familiar, yet entirely new take.
“I’ve always loved the world of the Neverland,” says author Jensen, who is also a longtime film critic. “Mermaids! Fairies! Indians! Flying children! What’s not to love?”
But of all Barrie’s characters, Jensen explains that it’s Capt. Hook she has always preferred. “Hook is much funnier. OK, I also have a thing about pirates,” she says. “But even when I was a kid, I thought Peter was too much like all the bratty little boys I went to school with.”
Jensen encountered the tale again as an adult when reviewing one of the latest incarnations of the classic fairy tale on the big screen, and was struck by the pathos of Captain Hook, an adult trapped in a world run by children. That was the birth of “Alias Hook.” “I started wondering who he was, and how he’d ended up in the Neverland,” she explains. “What had he ever done to deserve such a fate, playing villain to a pack of malicious little boys forever? I wanted to give him one last chance to get out of there.”
“Alias Hook” breathes new life into the character of the misunderstood captain, giving him a past filled with humanity and heartache, love and loss. And he’s pretty darn sexy too—no wonder Jensen has a thing for pirates.
Lisa Jensen will talk about her book, “Alias Hook” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 16 at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. For more information, call 423-0900.