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Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers Paperback – December 3, 2013

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Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers + Mary Poppins: Three Enchanting Classics: Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Comes Back, and Mary Poppins Opens the Door + Saving Mr. Banks
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Media Tie-In edition (December 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476762929
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476762920
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The original Mary Poppins was not as "saccharine" as the movie character, says Lawson, and her bittersweet biography of the supernanny's elusive creator, Travers (1899–1996), convincingly portrays a writer who created her character out of the childhood sorrows that haunted her. Drawing on archival sources and private papers, Lawson, a writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, sensitively traces Travers's emotionally deprived girlhood in Australia, where she was raised largely by an elderly aunt; her early career as an actress and columnist; and her 1924 emigration to London, where she worked as a journalist and theater reviewer. Emphasizing how Travers's desire for the father who had died when she was seven affected both her life and work, Lawson explores mythological and literary influences on the six Mary Poppins stories, written over 54 years (the first was published in 1934). Never married, Travers adopted an Irish baby boy; Lawson movingly reveals the emotional fallout of their failed relationship. After detailing Travers's fussy movie negotiations with Walt Disney and the downplaying of her authorship in the 1964 hit film, Lawson captures the melancholy of Travers's retreat into isolation and old age. 2 photo inserts. (Oct. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This ambitious biography of P. L. Travers was first published in Australia in 1999. The occasion for this American edition is the imminent opening of the Broadway musical version of Travers' timeless, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" tales of Mary Poppins, the imperious nanny who arrived one morning on the East Wind. It turns out there was a lot of the difficult Travers in Poppins. The early death of Pamela's father (she was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Australia) left the family dependent on wealthy Great-Aunt Ellie, another early inspiration for Poppins. The untimely bereavement also inspired Travers' lifelong search for a father substitute, first in the Irish poet AE (George Russell) and later in such dubious gurus as Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti. The translation of the Poppins stories into the celebrated Disney film brought Travers a decade of international fame, which had declined considerably by the time of her death at age 96 in 1996. This meticulously researched but overlong biography may help restore a diminished literary reputation, but its unsparing portrait of an exceedingly unsympathetic human being will win Travers no new posthumous friends. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Valerie Lawson is one of Australia s leading journalists, and the author of the critically acclaimed The Allens Affair. Mary Poppins, She Wrote is her biography of P.L. Travers the highly eccentric and talented Australian author who wrote, among many other things, the much-loved Mary Poppins books. It was originally released in 1999 by Hodder Headline to positive reviews and was short-listed for the Kibble Awards. It was published in 2006 by Aurum in the UK and Simon and Schuster in the USA and is republished in the USA on December 3, 2013 to coincide with the release of the Disney film, Saving Mr Banks.

Customer Reviews

It was very well written.
Lorraine A. Zahm
I enjoyed reading the story of P.L. Travers and Mary Poppins and understood the movie more after reading the book.
Carrol Mickley
I found the book to be a bit disorganized, but then her life was a bit confused.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 90 people found the following review helpful By V. Nolan on January 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone who loves Mary Poppins, in any or all of her incarnations, this book serves as a great introduction to the evolution of the character. The biography paints a great portrait of the woman best known as the creator of Mary Poppins, while being quite blunt about her shortcomings, personality quirks, and key moments and people in her life which are all reflected somewhere in the text of the Mary Poppins books. Knowing what makes this author tick makes reading the Poppins books themselves a more meaningful experience as the reader can harken back to anecdotes and philosophies that Travers liberally sprinkled throughout the world of Cherry Tree Lane.

My favorite part of the book is the no-holds-barred retelling of Travers' negotiations with Walt Disney for the move rights, and subsequent alienation she encountered while becoming a thorn in the side to the production, so much so that she wasn't invited to the Hollywood premiere and almost literally crashed the event. This reaffirms everything I know from listening to the commentary of the film, as well as the Sherman Brothers remembrances of Travers' less than helpful suggestions for the movie.

If you love to hear about the behind-the-scenes goings on on film sets as much as I do, the chapter on the Disney movie will be a favorite.
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108 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Borderman on October 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Valerie Lawson has done something P. L. Travers claimed she didn't want anyone to do: write her biography. It's a very good book. Travers discouraged personal questions in interviews, and preferred to discuss her work and, in later years, her philosophy of life -- the essence of experience as opposed to the mundane details of living. Lawson makes the case that if Travers had been serious about this she would have destroyed her papers -- which she decidedly did not do. Whatever her true feelings on the matter, this is a fascinating book, filled with insights into Travers' life and work, and with a respectable amount of attention to the work itself, especially the meanings and importance of the Mary Poppins books.

I think Lawson gives somewhat short shrift to Travers work with Parabola magazine, which is some of her most brilliant writing -- inspiring to thousands of her readers, and collected in the now out of print "What the Bee Knows." (Note to publishers: bring it back!) You may also find out more than you want to known about her endless toing and froing with Disney, and the ways in which the movie deal echoed through the last thirty years of her life.

But Lawson also gives the first comprehensive account of Travers' private life, her involvement AE and Gurdieff, her adoption of one twin, her son Camillus, and her early career as an actress. Her love affairs are touched on.

I'm not sure, in the end, if all the private matters, interesting as they may be, really add to our understanding of Travers' work, though Lawson makes some persuasive connections between the fantasy and the reality. Mary Poppins herself, the Great Exception, survives the biography with her mystery intact, and in spite of Lawson's sympathetic and thorough craftsmanship, so does Travers. For those of us lucky ones who count Travers as a touchstone in our lives, that's just fine. Questions without answers can often be more satisfying than the other kind.
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50 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Sharon S. on January 18, 2014
Format: Paperback
After seeing the movie, Saving Mr.Banks, I wanted to know more about P.L.Travers. Unfortunately, I learned more (boring stuff) about the the literary and philosophical circles P.L.Travers traveled in than I did about the woman herself.

As a fan of the Mary Poppins books, having borrowed them from the library many times as a child, I already knew that the Walt Disney movie starring Julie Andrews (!) was its own fantasy, rather than a cinematic portrayal of the Mary Poppins I knew from P.L.Travers' books. After reading 'Mary Poppins, She Wrote' I believe that the movie 'Saving Mr.Banks' is ANOTHER Disney fantasy, rather than an accurate or realistic biography of P.L.Travers OR the making of the their Mary Poppins movie.

I understand that P.L.Travers obscured, hid facts, and down right lied about her life over the years, so I'm sure that writing her biography was difficult. But Valerie Lawson tells us, up front, that despite Travers' claims that she did not want anyone to write her biography, Travers left a wealth of papers and documentation, and made sure it was available to anyone who wanted to read it. If there IS so much open documentation, one would think she could have presented a more straight forward, if not more informative, biography.

I was really bored by the tedious FILLER about all the gurus P.L.Travers followed in her life. It might have been SLIGHTLY more acceptable if Lawson had included anything that explained WHAT these teachings were about. Despite having to plow through page after page about Gurdijieff, I couldn't grasp any basic concept of his teachings as related by Valerie Lawson in her book...even though Wikipedia manages to fit it into a lot less space and comes up with a more concise explanation.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on May 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Lawson provides some information on a fellow Australian, who despite protestations to the contrary, may have wanted someone to present a biography of her. Travers left notes and diaries but it appears to be information and not real knowledge. Her life was mirage, down to her name, national allegiance and way of relating to her mentors, adopted son and sponsor, Walt Disney and his staff.

The book tells the story as much as it can be told.
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