I thoroughly enjoyed Katy Brand's first film assessment, Dirty Dancing and Me, so finding out that she was writing a book about Mary Poppins made me happy and had me immediately hitting the pre-order button. I wasn't disappointed.
This book is part essay-like breakdown of Mary Poppins, part love letter to the lasting impact the film has had, and part social commentary on how Mary Poppins plot has reflected itself in real life in the last 100 years (everything from the Suffragette Movement to the recent Coronavirus pandemic is discussed). Katy Brand displays a clear affection and passion for the story of everyone's favourite nanny figure (sorry Nanny McPhee and SuperNanny); she writes charmingly, endearingly and frankly about what Mary Poppins has taught her now and then. I listened to the audiobook version, as I find her narration very relaxing and entertaining; it enhanced my experience of the book all the more.
I really enjoyed the fact that each chapter was named after one of the songs in the film, it helps to highlight how the narrative of the film runs deeper than it may first appear, as each song has an underlying societal theme. The intertwining of modern commentary with an insight into what inspired P.L. Travers to write the original stories demonstrates that many of these themes are as relevant today as they were when the book was written and film made. The beauty of Mary Poppins, and, as the author points out, probably the main reason for the enduring success of the film, is that these valuable life lessons are subtly hidden in happy-go-lucky songs and bright, fun set pieces. The charm of Katy Brand's book is that it, likewise, points these lessons out in an easy-going, fun way.
Mary Poppins is a story of taking practical steps towards happiness. It’s looking at the bright side of life. It’s setting boundaries, deciding what you want and making it happen. That’s the path to being Practically Perfect
For comedian Katy Brand, part of the joy of watching Mary Poppins as a child was the thrill of the film’s iconic, no-nonsense heroine. Her unshakeable confidence, her staunch independence, and that touch of magic. Now she’s all grown up, Katy takes another look beyond the talking umbrellas, bottomless bags and dubious cockney accents to show that Mary’s still got something to teach us.
She explores how the beloved nanny was brought to life from the page to the big screen, delves into her most striking memories to uncover themes that are still as important now as they were at the time, from women’s rights and poverty, to toxic masculinity and work-life balance.
With interviews and insights from famous fans and friends, Practically Perfect is the common-sense manual for life that we never knew we needed, and sprinkles some supercalifragilistic magic along the way.
You can buy the book here now. It was published by HQ.