I bought Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson at bol.com after looking up the original Peter Pan story (by J.M. Barrie). The blurb gives a good idea of what the story is about and I was immediately interested. Here’s what I thought of it.
When I first encountered the book, I was excited because it retells a story we all know and love, but from a very different perspective. I loved Anderson’s idea to have Tiger Lily betray and rescue Peter and Wendy. Her character is drawn out wonderfully, which helps you understand everything she does. Often, when a heroine is too stubborn or ignorant to stand up for her lover, I get really frustrated and feel like throwing things. But because we see Tiger Lily grow up and realise everything she’s been through, we can understand her actions and even empathise.
Also, the fact that Tinker Bell is the narrator is really unique. Being a faerie means she can’t speak, but she can pick up on emotions much easier, making her the perfect observant narrator. And this allows the author to add a psychological side to the story, without having to dive into the characters’ psyches too much.
I also liked her more realistic way of describing Peter. He’s a boy trying to be a man and lead a group of scared kids. He does everything to not show fear and be happy. In a way, he is constantly deluding himself; it’s really a wonder they’ve survived for so long. Or so I thought, up until the part where they kill a pirate, showing Peter and his lost boys can be hard and unyielding when need be to defend themselves.
Peter doesn’t really understand Tiger Lily, and knows nothing about her home life. In part because she never tells him, which is explained through her upbringing and need to keep Peter a secret, and in part because he never knew a life-like that. That is why the “Wendy bird” is able to come between them. She understands Peter in a way Tiger Lily does not and plays the helpless and ever-encouraging female that Peter’s never known he wanted. He blossoms under her attention, because she allows him to be the big man he thinks he needs and wants to be. I get that he goes away with her, but I also think he doesn’t realise how much he hurt Tiger Lily. I think the letter shows he realises it when he’s grown up and it’s his way of apologising.
The part after Peter left up to the final chapter could have been left out as far as I’m concerned. After Peter left, I would have liked to see the book refer back to the first chapter where we see a grown-up Tiger Lily. That Tiger Lily is content with her life, but still looks toward the horizon sometimes in search of Peter. Then the letter could have arrived, tying everything together in a neat little bow. That would have been a more powerful ending. BUT: that is the way a fairytale would end, and since this is not a fairytale but tells the story behind it, the extra chapters help us see how Tiger Lily coped and what happened to her after he left.
On top of that, being a sucker for happy endings, I did appreciate the part in between. Knowing Tiger Lily got over the hurt, and learned to be happy with her childhood friend eased the ending and let’s the reader close the book, feeling a little wistful but good about the ending. In that, I really liked Anderson’s explanation of how loving Peter and her final husband are two completely different but equally good things. Tink’s observation how Tiger Lily is more lighthearted and laughs more around him, finish the story off perfectly. I also loved the fact that Anderson remembered to give Tink a final goodbye towards Peter as well. She sees him in London when he’s much older, but doesn’t want to confront that. I think she does that in order to remember the young boy as he was and not taint the memories of their adventures together.
If you can enjoy a fairy tale once in a while, but would like to approach it from a completely different and much more realistic viewpoint: this is definitely a must-read. I loved it and plan to re-read a few times definitely! (Also: it’s a beautiful, tragic love story)
What do you think? Intending on reading the story? Or, having read it, do you agree with me? Let me know!