Maria is the sole reason for the Captain and his second wife ever meeting. Without her, the family that has captured the hearts of generations might never have come to being.
Our facts are probably colored to great extent by The Sound of Music, the popular musical that catches the spirit, if not quite the reality of the captain and Maria's meeting. In real life some of the details were a little different, though they were just as dramatic, just as romantic, and just as heartwarming.
So today, I present to you The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, by Maria Augusta Trapp
When Maria set off from the Abbey to be a governess for Captain von Trapp's children, she never knew that her life was about to change. An irrepressible nun who actually did kiss the floor in advance of doing something she knew to be wrong, she wasn't made for the abbey cloisters; and when she met her particular charge, little Maria, she fell in love with her and the rest of the Captain's children right away. Her bright spirit brought much comfort to the family, and when the Captain broke his engagement with Princess Yvonne because Maria would make a better mother for his children, their love story, though not quite as instantaneous as Hollywood's, was a beautiful example of what a nice step-mother can bring to a family.
In this book, the leading up to the marriage is only a part of the tale. We have the real horror of the family as Hitler took over their native Austria; Maria's difficulties in conceiving children that led to the doctor trying to persuade her to abort her youngest son, Johannes; the family's budding talent for music; and Maria's loving descriptions of holiday traditions and special moments. She's as irrepressible in real life as in the film, and makes a host of mistakes in trying to measure up to what she thinks she should be. But Captain von Trapp was such a gentle and loving husband and father that she soon found her rhythm in the home.
When they fled Austria (due not only to the Captain refusing a German post, but to one of the sons refusing a high position as well) the von Trapps set off for America, with Maria in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy. Their adventures in America of trying to learn English, trying to connect American audiences with their Austrian music, and making a living in a time of war are part of a story that you won't want to miss. You'll laugh again and again, stop to ponder quite often, and feel right at home with the real-life story of this famous family.
I've always loved the von Trapp family since my first acquaintance with this book.They are of course a Catholic family and therefore there are a lot of saints and rosaries and Catholic festivals, but that never bothered me personally; it's just part of their story. Beyond that, there are really no warnings to give; there are a couple of childbirth scenes, but they're not at all graphic or inappropriate for a family reading. Probably the only thing I skipped in the family read-aloud was Maria's discussions with her dressmaker on how to hide the fact that she was expecting a child; you'll know why when you get there.
A lot of heroes came out of the WW2 era--missionaries, Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many others. But surprisingly the von Trapps, though they have just as memorable a legacy, aren't thought of in the WW2 hall of fame. They deserve a revival of their life story.
This particular book I'm reviewing today shares Maria's story starting at the time she met the von Trapps; but her childhood and her life after the Captain's death also makes fascinating reading in her autobiography Maria. I also enjoyed the book The World of the Trapp Family Singers, which has a bunch of biographical information and numerous black and white photographs of the family.
If you've never experienced the real story of the von Trapp family singers, please do check this book out. The movie is great fun, but the book is a joy to read as well, and a well-written gem of Austrian culture as well as their family history. The Story of the Trapp Family Singers also has a sequel written by Maria, with further adventures of their family--Family on Wheels.
The Von Trapp Singers
While all of Captain von Trapp's original children that Maria came to teach have now passed away, the three children that Maria had with the Captain are still alive. Not only that, but four of the von Trapp grandchildren are touring and singing today. They just released their newest album in March, and you can find them here. Other albums they've sung are available here. We enjoy their Christmas album very much indeed, and have a few singles from other CDs. It's easy to see how important their heritage is to them as you look at their work; and from all appearances, this next generation of von Trapps is passionate about carrying on the legacy they've been given. These von Trapps are descended from Werner, one of Captain von Trapp's original seven children.
In honor of this family's legacy, multigenerational faithfulness, Christian commitment, and amazing entrepreneurialism; I highly recommend checking out Maria's books, and the music. You'll be encouraged and uplifted by their family saga.