The story of Mary Poppins, the quintessentially English and utterly
magical children''s nanny, is remarkable enough. She flew into the
lives of the unsuspecting Banks family in a children''s book that
was instantly hailed as a classic, then became a household name
when Julie Andrews stepped into the starring role in Walt Disney''s
hugely successful and equally classic film. Now she is a Broadway
sensation all over again.
But the story of Mary Poppins''s creator, as this first
biography reveals, is just as unexpected and remarkable. The
fabulous English nanny was conceived by an Australian, Pamela
Lyndon Travers, who in 1924 came to London from Sydney as a
journalist. She became involved with theosophy and traveled in the
literary circles of W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot. Most famously, she
clashed with "the great convincer" Walt Disney over the adaptation
of the Mary Poppins books into film.
Travers, whom Disney accused of vanity for "thinking you
[Travers] know more about Mary Poppins than I do," was as tart and
opinionated as Julie Andrews''s big-screen Mary Poppins was cheery
and porcelain beautiful. "You''ve got the nose for it," Travers
candidly assessed the star. Yet it was a love of mysticism and
magic that shaped P. L. Travers''s life as well as the character of
Mary Poppins. The clipped, strict and ultimately mysterious nanny
was the conception of someone who remained thoroughly inscrutable
and enigmatic to the end of her ninety-six years.
"Who is P. L. Travers?" the American press inquired of "this
unknown Englishwoman" whose creation resulting in Hollywood gold
had won her international fame. Valerie Lawson''s illuminating
biography, Mary Poppins, She Wrote, provides the first and
only glimpse into the mind of a writer who fervently believed that
"Everyday life is the miracle."