Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Mary Poppins and P.L.Travers


I just wrote a piece for the Sunday Telegraph about P.L Travers, which was published the day before yesterday, but here's the link, in case anyone wants to see it. Regular visitors to this blog may remember the ongoing conversations and comments about Travers -- she has fascinated me for a long time, and I know that some of you are equally intrigued by her (Henri and Gondal Girl both recommended Valerie Lawson's biography of Travers, 'Mary Poppins, She Wrote', which is very comprehensively researched). And I still love the original books -- they're so much darker than the Disney version, but when I was re-reading them earlier this month, I was drawn straight back into that world that I loved as a child. I think it's something to do with the mixture of the magical and the everyday -- tea and toast and taking flight... And I was always haunted by Chapter 3 of 'Mary Poppins Comes Back', when Jane goes through the crack into the willow pattern plate. It terrified me as a small girl, but there must have been pleasure mixed in with the terror; because otherwise, why did I keep on re-reading it? That episode -- 'Bad Wednesday' -- was one of the inspirations for my first novel, 'Wish I May'. I don't think I've ever told anyone that until now.

9 comments:

Gondal-girl said...

Great article Justine - I am glad to hear the books are being re-issued, as I would love to give them to my nieces. Also very interesting that the bio has a different title in the UK/US, as here it is called Out of the Sky She Fell...very interesting all this flying, I think it must be an air sign/Gemini thing

Justine Picardie said...

I think Out of the Sky She Fell is a far more evocative title -- much truer to the spirit of the book

oxford-reader said...

Fascinating article, Justine. As much as I love the Disney version, the stage show is so much darker and truer to life.
I've never read the books, but now I think I should!

Justine Picardie said...

The books are the best!

Henri Llewelyn Davies said...

That was a great piece for the Sunday Telegraph, Justine. I remember 'Bad Wednesday' was one of my very favourite the Poppins stories, too (and Bad Tuesday, also - Michael was misbehaving that time and I think got reprimanded in all four corners of the globe. Maybe I was partly fascinated by badly-behaved children pushing boundaries, and then having their own boundaries pushed scarily.) What stuck in my mind in retrospect about Bad Wednesday, till I looked at it again just now, was the actual landscape inside the plate - I expect lots of children, like me, found they were trying to recreate it in their minds and get in, or were wanting to get into plates (or Narnia-style wardrobes! - that's a really common memory, I think! Is it my imagination, or have you, in one of your books, mentioned you also hopefully explored the backs of wardrobes?) Also indelibly in my memory were the terrifying old man, and that bit where Jane looks back and can just see the outside rim of the plate before she gets pushed further in (like 'further up and further in' in C.S. Lewis's 'The Last Battle' -that phrase also had a very scary aspect, somehow, even though they were all supposed to be going to heaven!).
I think it's brilliant you've publicised P.L. Travers and the original piquancy of Mary Poppins.
'I'll stay till the wind changes' is one of her many great lines. And I don't know if 'I make it a rule never to give references' - as she says to Mr Banks - is in the book as well as the film...

Justine Picardie said...

Henri -- you're as perceptive as always. I hadn't yet made that connection about pushing the boundaries, but you're absolutely right, of course. The old man inside the landscape of the plate is terrifying -- that sense of being caught in a place that you thought you wanted to escape to.
As for the backs of wardrobes: yes, it's a theme I keep returning to, in 'If The Spirit Moves You' and 'My Mother's Wedding Dress'. Where is Narnia when you need it? Inside one's head, I suppose, but I'd rather be outside in Narnia now, at least for the next few hours...

oxford-reader said...

Justine, just wanted to let you know I have *finally* written my thoughts on 'Daphne'. No need to read it, because it's nowhere near as good as some of the other blog write ups that are out there, but just wanted to let you know that I'd done it!

Carmina said...

I have a regular reader of your blog and I remember that post you mentioned and I read Mary Poppin's biography a couple of years ago and I learned a lot from the life of this special woman. Now I'm reading the biography of Sildenafil Citrate , then I will read the biography of Gucci

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