Maria von Trapp's first book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers became the inspiration for the musical `The Sound Of Music', chronicling a period of roughly 25 years from the time Maria joined the Trapp family in the mid 1920s. As such it is an essential read for fans who wish to explore the real story behind the movie, yet leaves many questions unanswered.
This present book, written a further quarter of a century later (in 1972), attempts to address some of those issues by adding crucial detail about her upbringing: the mother she never knew; her estranged father; her godless years as an orphan; her love of the outdoors; and her life at Nonnberg monastery that led to her meeting the von Trapp family.
After glossing over the `middle' years already covered by her earlier book, the remaining two thirds follows her later life as she travels the world, meeting famous names and embarking on new ventures while presiding over the Trapp family as its undisputed matriarch. I found particularly fascinating the chapters dealing with her year traversing the Pacific on a fact finding mission for the church.
Overall, 'Maria' adds a great deal of circumstantial colour to the character of Maria. It is much more a personal history, written in an altogether more open style: revealing in its honesty and often unflattering to the author; with pathos and perhaps bitterness at her sad childhood; and at times painful as she admits to fears, weaknesses and failings in later life.
A word of warning though: her memory may not be infallible! For example, her earlier book claims the baron met her when she first arrived at villa Trapp, and introduced her to the children (corroborated by Agathe von Trapp's account in her own autobiography Memories Before and After The Sound of Music), yet here she claims he wasn't at home at the time.
Nevertheless, 'Maria' is recommended if you want to get under the skin of the `real' Maria, to better understand the motivations and foibles that drove this charismatic and larger than life woman. It is simply presented, but does include a few pages of personal photographs, some of which are in colour.
Perhaps I shouldn't have read this book as it shattered my belief about Maria. I much prefer the film which makes Maria out to be a very likeable character and the Baron to be stern. In reality it is the other way round. I expected a much deeper and interesting account.