"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Friday, July 8, 2011

Film Friday: The Story of the Trapp Family Singers/The Sound of Music

Trapp, Maria Augusta. The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. New York: Image Books, 1957. 312 pages.

"...Abounding in humor, freshness and love, the book embodies a joie de vivre unequaled in most contemporary literature. The humorous situations in which the neophyte citizens find themselves because of the newness of mores and language provide a lighter side to the story. The freshness of the New England hills in the springtime is typified in the very lives of this unusual family. The love of God, of one another, and of their very fellowmen has proved a sustaining influence against 'the roar of the world.'" (description is a quote from America on the book cover)

Book Review: **** (out of five)
Movie Review: **** (out of five)

  • Writing Style.  The storytelling is not only simple, but it is told in as though Maria Trapp is sitting with you, telling the story to her friends.  This quickly draws the reader in, making a connection between the audience and the story.
  • Story. The story of the Trapp family is full of hope and the strength found in perseverance and family.  They are a wealthy family that not only has to learn how to be poor, but they also need to learn to fit in and survive in a new country during a war.  They are a model of how not to give up.
  • Slow Pace.  The story is not exactly exciting.  Even some of the greatest moments of upheaval in their lives are treated with the same calm acceptance and simplicity that characterizes the whole story.  This could make the book seem boring, depending on the readers' tastes.

 If nothing else, the book is beautiful, poignant, and funny.  Trapp is a wonderful writer, and the whole story is filled with a pervading theme of faith and trust in the goodness of the world.  The book is devoid of cynicism, without being cloyingly or naively optimistic.  The pervading religious themes are also important without being preachy.  The family does everything they need to to survive, even when it means doing work that would have been degrading for an upper class Austrian family.  The book is an ode to the closeness and interdependence of family.  It also celebrates generosity toward strangers, which is how the Trapp's survived once they arrived in the States.

For those interested in the cultural implications of religion, Trapp's discussions of various Catholic practices in Austria.  The Trapp family was not religious before Maria joined them, and she teaches us about her religion as she teaches the family.  As religion was an important part of Trapp's life (as she was in training to be a nun) it is unsurprising that it pervades the book.

The Movie:
The Sound of Music represents only a small fraction of the book.  In the book, the obstacles to Maria and Capt. von Trapp's marriage are less significant or problematic than they are in the movie.  The movie also skips a great deal in between the marriage and the family's exile from Austria.  But each is good at what it does.  The book is about the reliance on faith and family, and the movie is about the importance of keeping music in your life.  Both the book and the movie are wonderful, and each I think enhances the appreciation of the other.  I would definitely recommend the book for fans of the movie, as it teaches so much more about both the situation in Austria, and what it was like for he family to assimilate in the States.

1 comment:

  1. That was a very interesting review. I want to get the book now, especially since you said that the movie was only a small fraction of the book.