The Book Worm: Review: The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

the trapp family singers, the sound of music, book review

With nearly 1,500 Broadway performances, six Tony Awards, more than three million albums sold, and five Academy Awards, The Sound of Music, based on the lives of Maria, the baron, and their singing children, is as familiar to most of us as our own family history. But much about the real-life woman and her family was left untold.

Here, Baroness Maria Augusta Trapp tells in her own beautiful, simple words the extraordinary story of her romance with the baron, their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria, and their life in America.

Genre: non-fiction

Publishing date: December 2001 (the latest paperback edition available at Amazon). The original edition is from 1949. I own the Portuguese translation of the book, printed in 2007.

Offensive content: this is a story appropriate for all ages, there are no inappropriate descriptions or language, though I would say younger readers will not be able to grasp the full content of the story and even teenagers and young adults will probably need to familiarize themselves first with the context and the time in which the book was written. Also, it is a very religion based book. The Trapps were a traditional catholic family and their beliefs come alive in the pages of this book and in the description of their less than ordinary life. If you're not up to read a book where every single day people try to follow God's will to the best of their abilities, then The Story of the Trapp Family Singers is probably not for you. 

The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies of all time but if there is one thing that I love more than watching a movie, it's reading the story behind it (when there is one). Since 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, I thought it was more than appropriate to read the full story of the Trapp family. 

If you're not familiar with the real story of the Trapp family, you should be warned that the movie is a rather liberal adaptation of the true life of the Trapp family in Austria. While Maria did leave the convent and married captain von Trapp, this happened long before World War Two (they married in 1927) and, in her description at least, in a lot less romantic way than in the movie. When they left Austria (not exactly climbing the Alps either), there were already 9 children and Maria was pregnant with her third child, a son, who was born in the United States. Not even the names of the children were kept in the movie.

Still, the movie roughly corresponds to the first half of the Story of the Trapp family singers. The second part dwells on the life of the family after leaving Austria, their settlement in the United States, first in Pennsylvania and later in Vermont, where the Trapp family lodge still exists today and their musical career. 

When reading The Story of the Trapp family singers, you need to remind yourself that this book was written in 1949 and reflects the views and beliefs of someone born and raised at the beginning of the twentieth century. Having lived with grandparents born at that time (my maternal grandmother was born in 1905, the same year Maria von Trapp was born) and parents not that much younger (my father was born in 1925 and my mother in 1932), this is something I'm familiar with. In addition, I grew up reading a lot of books from my grandfather's library, so I'm used to "older" books, but younger readers may have some difficulty in putting the story in context. 

You also need to keep in mind that these are Maria's memoirs. It's not a biography and not even an autobiography. It is her recollection of how she met the captain, how she came into the family and how they thrived in the musical world. 

If there is one thing missing in this book, it's the other side of the story. I'm pretty sure that Maria's adaptation to married life can't have been as easy as she describes it and there must have been issues with the children, some of them were teenagers already when their father married Maria. Leaving their house, their country, learning a new language, being left in boarding schools while the older family members were on their musical tours, all that must have taken a toll on the children, if not on the adults. In the book, everything seems to be solved with a prayer and a song and I'm not believing it for a minute. Maybe Maria thought that those negative aspects were not to be discussed publicly (back then, people did not plaster their private matters all over Facebook), maybe she wanted to show the world just their brighter side or maybe she just had selective memory. 

The only thing that shocked me in the book was Maria's belief that disobedient children need to be spanked everyday. I don't doubt that she did it. She says so in the book, and in relation to her own biological children at that, so she must have really believed it. The fact that she also says her children thanked her for it years later I'm pretty sure falls on the selective memory category I mentioned above. 

Still, it is a fairly entertaining book that flows pretty well and gives you insight over one of the most famous movie families of all times. Despite its limitations, it still teaches us a valuable lesson on how family members should help and support each other and how, if people work as a team, it is much easier to succeed. 

It also, at least for me, does not lessen the magic of the movie in itself. No matter what, it will always be one of my favorite movies. 

After reading the book I googled around and found this page, on the real story of the Trapp family. In addition to what is in the book, it provides you with a bit of what I called above "the other side of the story" and on what they thought of the movie. I also found on Youtube a small video of the Trapp family singers performing because, well, I wanted to hear what they really sounded like.  

And, because I'm hopelessly romantic, here is one of my favorite scenes from The Sound of Music:

Happy reading, 

book blog, books, book reviews


  1. Hi, visiting from the Literacy Musing Mondays link-up. You have a wonderful site and I love your recommendation. I love the movie "The Sound of Music" and would be very curious to hear Maria's tale told from her own perspective. Thanks so much! Visiting from Renee

  2. Thank you for sharing with OMHG Wordless Wednesday, co-host Evija @FromEvijawithLove. xx

  3. 'The Sound of Music' is one of my favorite movies too! This sounds like such an interesting book. Thanks for sharing. I'm visiting from the 'Cozy Reading Spot' link-up.

  4. This sounds like a book that would suit me perfectly! I love books about the World War I and II eras! I would love to know the real story behind The Sound of Music! Thanks for sharing at Literacy Musing Mondays.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. It is a wonderful book and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  5. How timely! My kids just popped this movie in today! I read this book a long time ago and had pretty much the same reaction as you. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!

    1. Thank you Tina! I've seen the movie about a million times but I'd never read the book and it gave me a totally different view of the Trapp family.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...