Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins #1), by P.L. Travers (author), Sophie Thompson (narrator)

Listening Library, ISBN 9780739366790, June 2008 (original publication 1934)

This is a story most of us know, whether from the book or from the 1964 Disney movie. Recently it has gotten a flurry of new attention due to the new Disney movie about making the Mary Poppins movie, Saving Mr. Banks.

Mary Poppins arrives, apparently on the East Wind, at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, when the Banks family is in dire need of a new nanny, Katie Nanna having quit and departed quite abruptly. She is brusque and high-handed, and promises only that she will stay until the wind changes, but magical things happen all around her.

It's a charming story, and well worth reading whether you are in the intended age group, or long removed from that.

I think those who have never read the book and are judging by Travers' known unhappiness with the movie, will be startled to see how similar the basic events of the story and the movie are. The gloss of Mr. Banks being a cold father (rather than merely a Victorian father) and Mrs. Banks being overly-involved in suffragette activities, is of course entirely Disney.

The dread "animated sequences," however, are not.

Some people seem to be shocked and horrified that a Disney movie about Disney making a movie didn't portray Disney as an overpowering, bullying monster without any redeeming characteristics, and that P.L Travers wasn't portrayed as a sweet, naive older English lady cruelly used by Disney.

The truth is they were both hard-nosed, difficult people, and Ms. Travers was neither the first nor the last writer to be unhappy with the movie that was made from her book. This is not a tragedy; it is business, business from which both parties made quite a bit of money.

At any rate, I strongly recommend the book.