Agathe von Trapp, the oldest daughter in the Trapp Family Singers, offers readers the real story behind an American classic in her poignant and fascinating autobiography Memories Before and After The Sound of Music. The courageous family and events immortalized in the beloved Broadway musical and hit Hollywood film come vibrantly alive in these pages, and Agathe’s post-Sound of Music life is equally compelling.
The eldest daughter in the Trapp Family Singers writes poignantly, if sentimentally and somewhat selectively, about her charming rural upbringing in Austria and later flight from the Nazi menace to fame and fortune in America. Her family's plight is well known from the Broadway play and later movie, The Sound of Music, based inaccurately on a story her stepmother had sold to a German movie producer in 1956 for $9,000 and no royalties. However, von Trapp has reconciled herself to the fanciful errors in the musical because of the "warmth and goodwill" it instills in viewers. Here she reconstructs a gossamer past, presided over by her loving father, Georg, a WWI navy hero, and her real mother, Agathe, the granddaughter of the inventor of the torpedo, Robert Whitehead. Together the couple had seven children, living between Pola, on the Adriatic coast, and the Austrian town of Erlhof, on Zeller Lake, where Agathe's mother had a country retreat flourishing with servants, animals, and old-world customs. However, in 1922, Agathe died of scarlet fever, and the family eventually moved to Salzburg, where Papa did indeed marry the 22-year-old governess from the abbey, and the musically inclined family embarked on a string of concert tours that saved them not only from insolvency but also certain imprisonment by the Nazis. In her telling, we learn the real (delightful even if whitewashed) details in this truly providential tale about a tight-knit, devoted, and wonderfully gifted family.