The story of Mary Poppins, the quintessentially English and utterly magical children's nanny, is remarkable enough. But the story of Mary Poppins' 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 travelled 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 was as tart and opinionated as Julie Andrews's big-screen Mary Poppins was cheery and porcelain beautiful. 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. Valerie Lawson's illuminating biography provides the only glimpse into the mind of this writer, who fervently believed that 'Everyday life is the miracle'.
Valerie Lawson is the author of The Allens Affair.