Books: Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words by Andrew Morton

I'm not really writing a review yet (if ever) because I'm only about halfway done with this book. I picked it up because, after reading a couple about Elizabeth II (one non-fiction and one fiction), I decided to read some related material. I know plenty about people like Anne Boylen and Eleanor of Aquitaine but little about the modern monarchy. And Diana has left such a legacy . . . I had to wonder at the reaction to her divorcing Charles and then, later, to her death. I mean, by many accounts (though not all) she was a lovely person, very sweet natured and wanting to help—a typical Cancer, if you're into astrology, which she was a bit, I think—but I'll never quite understand how people who only know of a person through the media can have such wrenching reactions to things that these celebrities do or that happen to them. And Diana was a celebrity. The royal family are all celebrities, since by definition they are people who are "celebrated" in one way or another.

That said, I'll make a confession. Diana had about 15 years on me, so I was really young at the time of her wedding to Charles. I was what? Five years old? But it was old enough to understand there was a real live princess in a big wedding dress, that this Diana woman was living the dream of every little girl by getting to marry the prince. I had some tattered old copy of People, the commemorative edition or whatever, with all the pictures in it. My best friend and I would play "princesses" and I was Diana and she was Sarah [Ferguson, not technically a princess, but we made due with what was known and available to us]. And a little over a year later, when my World Book Encyclopedia sent its annual year book, I was so excited when there was a picture of Diana, Charles, and little baby William. I would go and look at it often.

This is to show I was not immune to the fervor. It waned, though, as real life waxed. By the time the divorce happened, I was hardly paying attention any more. And not having been inside the situation, I can only read the testimonies of various parties and try to extrapolate something that may or may not be the truth. It's interesting, like a psychological puzzle, working out the biases and whatnot.

And then the death, which was a shock. I was interning on my first film set that summer, so I was a bit out of the loop on the real world. I remember coming back from some long day and my roommates gathered in front of the television, watching the news. But of course by then Diana was no longer my childhood ideal of a princess . . . And yet, I did sense a bit of my innocence slipping away at the realization she was also no longer in the world. But while I thought it was sad, certainly, especially given the circumstances of her death, I was still amazed at the outpouring of emotion from so many people, as if they'd personally lost a loved one.

None of this speaks to Morton's book, though, does it. Well, so far it's very interesting. But of course I have to remember it is also one-sided. I never saw the interviews with her, but I've enjoyed reading the transcripts of her tape recordings; they certainly give a clear sense of her personality, and I feel I can very much hear her voice in my head. Then I get into the part fleshed out by Morton, who used the tape recordings to construct the story of Diana's life, and that helps give a fuller sense of her side of things if nothing else. Well, hers and whomever else was willing to speak on her behalf.

The picture is one of a conflicted nature: someone with a strong streak, a definite sense of destiny, and yet she lacked a lot of self-confidence, as if perhaps she was not convinced she was capable of taking on the burden of that fate. She was naturally a nurturing soul, but she needed someone to sustain her in turn, and it seemed she lacked that. Or maybe it's just that there might never be enough, despite friends and sisters trying.

Diana clearly had misgivings about marrying Charles, but also felt (again) destined . . . And yet she also was certain it wouldn't be forever, that she would never be Queen, that she would have another relationship after her first marriage (really she thought she might remarry, but sadly she never got that opportunity).

Anyway, I'm still reading the book, though I suppose I could say I know how it ends . . . But it's an interesting portrait. And after this, to be fair, I should probably find something from the other camp, though I don't think there's much out there. No one from that side tends to broadcast. One has to cut and paste various anecdotes and then stand back and, like one of those big pictures made from a mosaic of tiny thumbnails, try and see the story as a whole. But the number of thumbnails is limited, so the picture remains incomplete. People keep coloring in, trying to make it look a certain way, but that defeats the purpose of getting down to the truth. Though I guess it makes for a good story.

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