Book vs Film (Guest Reviews)

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers, 1934

For FilmvsBook today me and Liam have gone for Mary Poppins. As normal Liam will review the book here, on my blog, and I will be reviewing the film over on Liam’s blog. I will add the link for that at the bottom, be sure to check it out.

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‘The original best-loved classic about the world’s most famous nanny – Mary Poppins.

When the Banks family advertise for a nanny, Mary Poppins and her talking umbrella appear out of the sky, ready to take the children on extraordinary adventures.

Mary Poppins is strict but fair, and soon Michael and Jane are whisked off to a funfair inside a pavement picture and on many more outings with their wonderful new nanny!

Needless to say, when at last ‘the wind changes’ and she flies away, the children are devastated. But the magic of Mary Poppins will stay with the Banks family forever.’

I don’t know how I feel about this. The child in me is crying, desperate to forget I ever laid eyes on something that could taint the practically perfect Mary Poppins, but the grown up is rather transfixed. P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins is not the happy story of all singing, all dancing flying nannies that we all know and love, but a rather dark morality tale.
The literary Mary Poppins is far from perfect. She is vain, moody and really quite unpleasant to be around. Fundamentally she is a nanny, there to do a job. She turns up, looks after the children, and goes home. She is a disciplinarian, with no time for frolicking and silly nonsense. In short, she lacks the Disney gloss that makes her oh so lovable in the Oscar winning adaptation.
The books, because there is a series, is less of a strict narrative and more of a string of individually packaged short stories that has one of two aims – either to give us an insight into Mary Poppins, or to teach us a lesson. The better chapters succeed in both, for the real strength in Mrs. Travers’ work is the detail in which she gives Mary Poppins. She is a remarkable character, enigmatic even, but nuanced and flawed and endearing and as detailed as any protagonist in any story should be.
Though we do not love Mary Poppins in the book, we do nonetheless admire her. It is a children’s book, and there is some fantasy including a magic compass and talking animals, but it carries a darker tone than the film. There is always a sense that Mary Poppins may not be what she seems, like there’s a secret being kept that may not be pleasant. This of course is never alluded to by Disney.
Mary Poppins is a lovely read, and a definite recommendation to any parents, but save it for when the kids are a little more grown up. It has all the potential to give nightmares to toddlers. Sadly though, on this occasion, my sentimentality towards the musical gets the better of me and I just can’t fully engage, not to discredit Travers’ original creation.

Now to read my review of Mary Poppins click here.

3 thoughts on “Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers, 1934

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