Neverland, by Douglas Clegg – Book Review

In Neverland, by Douglas Clegg, ten-year-old Beau Jackson returns to Gull Island, South Carolina every summer with his bickering parents and twin sisters for a two week long visit with equally cantankerous relatives.  He has an elderly wheelchair-bound grandmother, his aunt and uncle and their troubled son Sumter with which to contend. The house is creepy and amidst the constant fighting amongst the family, the children are left under the care of a teenage babysitter, who seems to understand more about the children and the island than she lets on.  Sumter introduces Beau to an enigmatic presence called Lucy that seems to dwell in  a covered box in a shed in the woods, called Neverland, surrounding their home.  One by one all of the kids fall under the influence of Lucy and Neverland, and it seems as if Beau might be the only one with enough knowledge of the situation to prevent a tragedy.

My first foray into the writing of Douglas Clegg was with Isis, his intriguing Gothic novella, which left me struck by the beauty of the writing but scratching my head at the end.  While I wasn’t sure what to think about the story of Isis, the quality writing on the part of the author had me looking forward to reading one of his novel length works.  Once again, the writing didn’t fail and I was taken by Clegg’s command of the language which he used to foreshadow, imbue character, build suspense, and add to a creepy atmosphere where you expect that just about anything can happen.  One of the strengths of this novel is the slow building tension and the hints that something is just not right with this family and with the enchanted and possibly slave haunted island. I loved the way that piece of the story unfolded.

In Neverland, Clegg combines family and supernatural horror with mixed results.  Careful attention is paid to character building and planting clues with the reader – leaving us in a tortured tangle of half-baked suspicions and theories.  I loved the relationship that Beau had with his father, and the children gathering to discuss their family and just what might happen to all of them.  I was disappointed in how long it took for something to happen.  The heavy atmosphere might have contributed to te way time seems to move in the book.  It felt like the family had been there much longer than a few weeks.

The suspense was nice, but it lingered a moment too long and I didn’t feel my patience was rewarded by the end.  The resolution left me with mixed feeling about what kind of story was being told, and elements that might have worked for one of those choices seemed preposterous for the other.  If you are looking for literary horror, Clegg definitely fits the bill, unfortunately I haven’t found the story of his that clicks fully with me.  Neverland’s promising start couldn’t rescue the ending for me, which was a bit muddled and disappointing.

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Book Information: Neverland, by Douglas Clegg
Publisher, Publication Date & Other Info: Vanguard Press – Reissue April 13, 2010 – Trade Paperback– 304 pages
Author Website & Other Resources & Links: Douglas Clegg
Source: Review Copy Sent By The Publicist

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1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Blogger Unplugged! December 23,     2009   Jan 2, 2010

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  1. I have this book for review as well. I’m a long-time fan of Clegg’s writing. If you want to experience some of my favorites, read the Harrow House books: Mischief, The Infinite, and Nightmare House.

    1. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation – I will have to try that series. I love his style of writing so I am sure that he must have at least a few books out there that I would enjoy. I forget that I should be looking to you for my horror advice!

  2. I know you didn’t enjoy it as much as you would have liked, but I am so drawn in by it. I will definitely add this to my list.

    1. There is a lot to be enjoyed, I think the wrap-up left me so unsatisfied that it colored the rest of the book for me. I look forward to reading what you have to say about it.

  3. I won a copy of this novel and I’m totally intrigued so will be reading it. I wonder if I’ll have the same uncertain feelings.

    1. It will be fun to see what you think. Some people who love horror, really liked it. But I think most opinions have been mixed.

  4. Yes, I am drawn to this book too. I love literary suspense and horror. I may look into possibly getting the audio…

  5. Darn it, I hate when books show so much promise with a thrilling mystery and then they don’t deliver in the end. I do like literary horror so I might check this one, or one of his others, out anyway.

    1. Jen recommended the Harrow House books by him, so I might try one of those. I think he is definitely worth checking out because he is a good writer and explores some interesting themes in his books.

    1. I know! It was disappointing. Especially with the suspenseful build up. I think it might be worse when books have that particular element. But at least there as some good stuff there along the way.

  6. Unfortunately, I do not have this book, but I want to read … Could be obtained from? Write it all out: Unfortunately, this book is already sold out … Startup from the idea was to write the book? …

  7. Fully agreed. I have never read Clegg before, and I picked this book up on a whim when I came across it in Barnes and Nobles because I was intrigued by the appearance of Peter Pan influence in a horror novel. I thought the writing was fine, but despite it’s average length I often wondered what or when the point of the book was going to rear its head. It developed the family, and showed glimpses of horror, but too often switched between the two(with the horror elements taking the backseat for most of the story) and so I felt I was reading a book on a dysfunctional family that occasionally showed glimpses of an escapists imagination. By the end, I was most assuredly expecting an “it was all pretend” since despite prevalent foreshadowing being used in the book, nothing really seemed to paint a picture as to just what was real(or better yet, how it could be real) and overall it lacked a feeling of necessary punctuation to believability. In the end I feel just too much time was spent on the family relationships. They were already established, and getting to the last 50 pages or so only to find the horror elements once again start and then stop in order to delve into the bickering quarrels of the family was a momentum shatter, to say the least. I found myself skimming and skipping the last 30 or so pages trying to find relevant plot developments, and that should never happen in a good book my opinion. I agree with the critic on the back of the book who cites Lovecraft influence, but where Lovecraft would eliminate fluff and develop a coherent and concise story within 150-200 pages, Clegg(in this case) nearly doubles that length and seemingly tries to tell two stories in one, with suddenly making the end as if it was one way all along which causes it to fall a bit flat. I do enjoy his writing style though otherwise, so perhaps I’ll still check out some other works.

    1. Well, if you find something that passes muster, let me know. I read one of his shorter books, Isis, and I came away from that one equally baffled. The literary talent and skill are there and you can certainly mix those elements with horror, but i always get the feeling that he isn’t comfortable or feels he has to write one or the other. The balance is off.