Friday, 22 May 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Reading Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L.Travers

I always thought that when Mary Poppins floats away at the end of the story, that she was never to be seen again. At least, not by Jane and Michael Banks. I thought they'd had their time with her and that she was off seeing to some other family who needed her more badly, after she'd nudged each of the Bankses in the right direction to resolve their problems, and strengthen their family relationships. 

But that is only true in the Disney film version. At the end of the actual book, nothing is resolved at all and Mary Poppins' leaving doesn't feel caring or kind. And as the second book opens, it is evident that something is still very much lacking, and Mary Poppins arrives at the perfect time to bring peace back to the Banks household. 

However, if you thought Mary Poppins was sour and moody in the first book, this second set of stories will do nothing to change your mind. In fact, you will probably end up disliking her more intensely, and wondering why Jane and Michael crave her company so much. She never does anything kind, reassuring or affectionate. And the only time she smiles is when she is admiring her own reflection, taking great satisfaction in her appearance. The mildest comment or most innocent question can set her off into a foul temper. She never explains anything to the children, and is sarcastic, dismissive and rude. She does keep their behaviour in order, but only by being unpleasant, disparaging and brusque. I have decided that the children must only be attracted by her unexplained magic mysteriousness. 

Mary Poppins certainly does open up a world of wonder for her young charges, and it seems that unexpected and strange things just happen when you are with her. The adventures they encounter are entertaining, very original, and sometimes quite abstract, and the writing does a good job of unfolding it all to the reader. I've enjoyed this set of stories, despite my disapproval of their main heroine. To me, the heroes are really Jane and Michael. I just can't help feeling they'd be better off with someone who can be nice to them. 

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