The Diana Chronicles
By Tina Brown
Edited by Andy Ross
Diana McLellan, The Washington
Brown's jam-packed, juicy roll in the high cotton
is fragrant with the rich schadenfreude that makes Top People so much easier
to bear. And in return for its rumored $2 million advance, it includes
shovelfuls of hot fresh dirt, tucked among the standard (and amazingly
detailed) iconic fare.
All her life, Earl Spencer's daughter hung
with the help. Skimpily educated, she learned everything she knew below
stairs at her family's splendid Althorp estate. She loved the gossip and
chatter of housemaids and pastry cooks. She relished menial work, too — to
clean house, to wash and iron clothes, nanny small children and cook
bread-and-butter pudding for the staff, was bliss. During her honeymoon
aboard the royal yacht Britannia, as her cerebral Prince buried himself in
the highbrow books of Laurens van der Post, Di slipped away whenever
possible to crash the crew's parties.
Perhaps most important, Diana
read what housemaids read — down-and-dirty tabloids and sugary
shy-virgin-marries-the-prince romances. Barbara Cartland, the
pink-ostrich-plumed mother of Di's own hated stepmother, Raine, wrote
hundreds of these, and would claim they were Diana's downfall: "They weren't
awfully good for her." Fifteen years after the wedding (to which she wasn't
invited), the Queen of Romance opined that the marriage was doomed all along
because Diana "wouldn't do oral sex." Well, that wasn't in the romance
novels, was it?
A great glory of this book is the behind-the scenes
close-ups of life at the various castles, palaces and Stately Homes. Picture
Diana on her first two-month boot-camp in Balmoral, the sovereign's Scottish
retreat: The long days slaughtering wildlife, picnics in the freezing rain,
dinners seated between two elderly courtly stiffs ("heavy furniture" in
Di-speak); Prince Philip booming on for hours about the evils of trade
unions; Princess Anne barking about her day's kill; the Queen's bagpipers at
last wheezing traditional Scottish airs around the table to signal time for
the women to leave, perhaps for tiddlywinks and jigsaws.
not, of course, married for chums, a good time or even ambition, but for her
ideal of romantic love. Finally understanding that Charles would always love
Camilla Parker Bowles, and never her, she began the string of affairs that
spiced up the end of her short life. Brown really goes to town here. She,
worldly piece of work that she is, thinks everything would have been
hunky-dory if Di had only got it on with Prince Philip, the Queen's consort.
He fancied her anyway, and it would have kept the fuss inside the family.
But Di aimed lower.
Diana's tragicomedy is Shakespearean in scale,
with its slippery royal machinations, its agonized ironies, its seething
jealousies and heartbreaking inevitability. Brown is no Shakespeare. But she
gives us a walloping good read.
Caroline Weber, The New
York Times Book Review:
Tina Brown breathes new life into the saga of
this royal "icon of blondness" by astutely revealing just how powerful, and
how marketable, her story became in the age of modern celebrity journalism.
As the former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, Brown certainly has
the authority to examine the Princess of Wales as a creation and a casualty
of the media glare.
John Lanchester, The New Yorker:
The best book on Diana is the newest, The Diana Chronicles by Tina
Brown. She tells the story fluently, with engrossing detail on every page.
Julia Keller, The Chicago Tribune:
Chronicles, Brown's hotly awaited dish on the princess, is more than a mere
gossip-fest. It is terrifically well written, with motion-capture phrases
that instantly distill some complicated essence of contemporary life into a
few deft adjectives.
AR (July 2007) I read the book
last week and I can confirm that it is indeed wonderful stuff, not just
trashy dirt but good sharp analysis as well as some well researched and
expertly painted detail. One would expect no less from a former consort of
Martin Amis who has made it big on her own account in New York, but still
this is an awesome show of feline firepower.