I vividly remember watching Mary Poppins as a child. I loved all the songs, but had no idea the concept had originated as a series of books written by PL Travers. I discovered this recently when I watched Saving Mr Banks, a fantastic film about how Mary Poppins was brought to the big screen.
Travers was born in Australia and had a traumatic childhood. She began writing about Mary Poppins as a way to escape her difficult life; imagining a magical world similar to her favourite book, Peter Pan.
Saving Mr Banks showed the battle Walt Disney faced trying to persuade Travers to give him the rights to the film. Travers was a wonderfully bitter author, viciously protecting her work. I loved seeing her character develop over the course of the film and the way she stood up to Disney. It was so heartwarming to watch and is probably the best thing I’ve seen so far this year. It inspired me to get a copy of the original book, so I could see how Travers portrayed the magical nanny I knew so well.
Mary Poppins , the book, was interesting to read but it felt dated. I was planning to read it to my children, but a quick scan of the first few pages made me realise it wasn’t for them. It was made up of a series of short stories (another reason I didn’t enjoy it) and captured a period of English life that no longer exists. Each short story revolved around a simple concept (eg. a trip to the butchers) and involved Mary Poppins taking the children along, producing the occasional magical moment.
It was charming (another adjective I avoid in books!) but so simple it was boring. I’m pleased I now have knowledge of this children’s classic, but have no desire to read the rest of the series. This is one of those rare cases where the film is better than the book – in fact where two films are better than the book!
Have you read Mary Poppins? Did you enjoy it as an adult/child?