Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Princesses Behaving Badly - Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Princesses Behaving Badly:
Real Stories from History -
Without the Fairy-Tale Endings
I have wanted to read this collection of royal stories since last September. Just the title draws you in, doesn't it?

McRobbie writes a wonderful introduction, introducing the book and why she wrote it. As she points out, our "current culture 'is turning little girls into budding narcissists.'" As a product of the princess generation, I do not know that I can agree with her entirely, but I certainly do believe that we are teaching children narcissistic tendencies in a variety of ways. 

McRobbie has taken it upon herself to reveal some royal history that is not nearly as glitzy as the Disney ideals. She writes, "these women were human, but the word princess, along with its myriad connotations, often glosses over that humanity." To remedy that, McRobbie collected stories of princesses, well, behaving badly. Madness, loose morals, rebellion, fighting - it's all there and it's all (pretty much) history. 

A grain of salt is offered at the start to remind readers that "history is only as accurate as those who record it, and that goes double when the subject is a woman." With some of these women, it's simply impossible to know their real story because history has tainted it or hidden it or ignored it. McRobbie does her best to uncover the truth, the good and the bad. 

This was a great book to read in segments before bed each night. Each princess story only lasted a few pages and proved independently interesting. 

I just realized that I admitted to reading fairy tales before bed. Yep, I'm nearly 30, folks. No shame.

I loved that McRobbie ventured off the beaten path for most of her princesses. While I had heard of a few (Princess Margaret of Britain, anyone?), most were previously unknown stories to me. Even the ones with which I was previously familiar held some information that I had missed out on in earlier studies. 

McRobbie breaks the book into loose categories, focusing on women who have "badness" in common. She has a section about princesses who likely had mental illness, a section on princesses who, uh, got around, a section on warrior princesses. Each held such variety. No two stories were the same, even within the categorized sections. Of course, I suppose this is a tribute to the fact that no two people or lives are the same, but I appreciated the variety more than anything else about the book. To me, the variety was the linchpin in recognizing that every princess story does not end with true love's kiss and happily ever after. 

I learned a lot and quite enjoyed myself along the way. It's an easy read, but a worthwhile one. If royal history or scandal interests you at all, I would recommend picking up the book for yourself. 

Pages: 303
Date Completed: July 14, 2014

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