Aunt Sass: Christmas Stories by P.L.Travers
Published by Virago
6 November 2014
Friends come in many guises. In these autobiographical stories, three characters - an eccentric great aunt, a Chinese cook and a foul-mouthed ex-jockey - assert a lifelong influence on the narrator, as she looks back over her childhood. Much like Mary Poppins, each comes into the child's life just when she needs them most. And each, however unlikely, becomes a friend and a champion to the young girl.
Charming, tender and moving, these stories, which were given to the author's friends as Christmas gifts, contain all the hallmarks you'd expect from such a magical writer. They are also fascinating for anybody who, after watching Saving Mr Banks, wants to find out more about Travers' early life. And best of all, you will meet the woman who was the inspiration for Mary Poppins.
This is a collection of three stories written by P.L.Travers, who is probably best well known for her classic Mary Poppins. These were stories that she wrote, and gave to her friends as gifts, and have finally been published together for the first time. Three tales in all, they include an unlikely combination of a Chinese cook who chants threats at crying babies - not a recommended babysitter there then, Johnny Delaney who was a jockey with a foul mouth and temper to match, and Travers' own aunt Helen Morehead, known affectionately as Aunt Sass.
Having never read Mary Poppins, I can't say whether in terms of language that this is comparable, but I would say, that whilst the stories are for children in some respects, the language is such that it isn't overly accessible to the young, and even older children might need many of the words explaining to them. In my opinion, I would argue that these are stories of childhood, but written for adults to reminisce and enjoy.
Aunt Sass was the inspiration for the character of Mary Poppins, and whilst I didn't picture her as Julie Andrews in my mind, I imagine that in the novel format, she is much more recognisable. Many people watched and enjoyed the film Saving Mr Banks and I think that this collection of short stories can only add to the love and admiration of this author.