A rollicking debut novel from award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Pielmeier reimagines the childhood of the much maligned Captain Hook: his quest for buried treasure, his friendship with Peter Pan, and the story behind the swashbuckling world of Neverland.
Long defamed as a vicious pirate, Captain James Cook (a.k.a Hook) was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and entirely truthful memoir. His chronicle offers a counter narrative to the works of J.M. Barrie, a “dour Scotsman” whose spurious accounts got it all wrong. Now, award-winning playwright John Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time.
Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At thirteen, he runs away from home, but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile, and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.
Like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Hook’s Tale offers a radical new version of a classic story, bringing readers into a much richer, darker, and enchanting version of Neverland than ever before. The characters that our hero meets—including the terrible Doctor Uriah Slinque and a little girl named Wendy—lead him to the most difficult decision of his life: whether to submit to the temptation of eternal youth, or to embrace the responsibilities of maturity and the inevitability of his own mortality. His choice, like his story, is not what you might expect.
If you’re a fan of Gregory Maguire then you should like what John Leonard Pielmeier did for the infamous Captain Hook AKA Captain James Cook. I was curious to see what he could do with a man who has always been depicted as a bit psychopathic but this author wanted to show his ‘softer side’. I figured it had to be interesting after the TV show Once Upon a Time on ABC turned Peter Pan into an evil antisocial villain.
I liked that Pielmeier wrote it in first person so we get James’ story through his own eyes so to speak. One of the nice things also about the way he started this is that you get to see his beginnings and remember even the most ‘evil’ of us started out as innocent children before circumstances turned them into the villain of stories.
James is not only portrayed as someone with a seemingly normal, healthy (for the era at least) upbringing but also quite intelligent and with a loquacious vocabulary which would make sense because despite how Disney portrays his role, to captain a ship of the type he did takes complex cognitive skills.
You can see the first stirrings in his psychological development begin to change when he became an orphan, essentially homeless, most of his belongings taken away, then finally became the target of bullying. All of which would of course leave permanent scarring on even the strongest of us.
The elements of Peter Pan’s story we’ve all come to know such as The Mermaid’s Lagoon, Tink, the Jolly Roger, Smee, Tiger Lily and more but the perspective obviously is different. It’s a very adult way of looking at the childhood classic which of course it would be considering how Hook fit into the story in the first place. There were moments you had to feel for Hook such as when he found his boyhood shadow and felt a little tug at your heart knowing he’s right that at some point we outgrow our childhood. Others when he seemed to blame himself for Pan’s inability to stop committing felony kidnapping, at least that was how Hook viewed his actions.
I found Pielmeier’s character development and implied psychoanalysis of Hook interesting as you get to see how he was formed into the man who would one day be an infamous captain. The dialogue felt realistic for the piece, the plotline ran smoothly and there was a fun “Where’s Waldo” like feel whenever familiar places, people and events popped up.
Since we’ve always seen what Peter Pan was doing, reading this aspect we get to imagine what Hook was doing when Pan wasn’t around. It’s not like he just sat on his ship nearby waiting for Pan to give his life meaning. Just like in ABC’s version, Pan comes off not so much as the quintessential hero but as an equally flawed character who from the Captain’s point of view was not a saint to be worshipped but a sinner who should face the consequences of his actions.
If you’ve ever been interested in an alternate view of the classic stories we grew up with then you should check this out and let Hook be your guide to where time stops.
Thank you to Netgalley and Scribner for allowing me to review this book.
Buy at Amazon: http://a.co/8cSHSoI
*synopsis and pic from amazon.com