The Diana Chronicles

By Tina Brown

Some Reviews


Edited by Andy Ross

Diana McLellan, The Washington Post:

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.

Diana had 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:

The Diana 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.