Monday, January 22, 2018

Diana - Andrew Morton

Title: Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words
Author: Andrew Morton
Publication Date: 6/27/2017 
Pages: 448
Genre: Biography / Royals / Nonfiction
How I Found It: My OTSP Secret Sister sent it in her September package for me!
Date Completed: 12/30/17

Summary: First published in 1992, this biography of the late Princess of Wales was explosive. It was the first real exposé on the Wales' marriage - and it was fueled by Diana herself! Now, twenty years after her death and 25 since the original edition, Morton has added two and a half decades of the story and included edited transcripts of the interviews Diana gave for the book.

What I Thought: When I pulled this out of a package from my OTSP Secret Sister (it's a book blogger gift exchanges that extends throughout the year), I was thrilled. Clearly, my secret sister was paying attention to my avid interest (read: obsession) with the British royals. In the letters we've been writing back and forth this fall, we've quite enjoyed gushing together about all the recent exciting news for the family.

It normally takes me forever to read the books actually on my shelves, but I prioritized this one over break. I wanted something just like this - a delicate balance of light and substantive. It was perfect for reading during the holidays. 

It also was fortuitously timed as I had just finished Harmony, by Charles, Prince of Wales, Diana's ex-husband. Their marriage and its fallout remains one of the biggest royal stories of the past 100 years, so I quite enjoyed getting a deeper glimpse into each of their personalities this month. Having just read Harmony gave me more perspective and balance as I read Morton's admittedly biased take.

This 25th anniversary edition is broken down into three main parts. First, Morton shared edited transcripts of the interviews Diana gave for the book. This was easily the most interesting part to me. They are a bit disjointed - mostly because they read as the actual conversation they are. It would have been helpful to have some of the interviewer's questions included rather than just a conglomeration of Diana's answers, but this way works. You get a definite sense of her manner of speech and sense of humor. It's the most intimate part of the book, to be sure. Worth picking up for this alone.

The second section is Morton's (almost) original manuscript. I say almost because he's clearly adjusted some things over the years with the benefit of hindsight. The bulk of it is presumably identical to the original book, but he's added in comments and references for better context. For instance, he refers to the 2005 marriage of Charles and his former mistress Camilla and the 2011 marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. This section takes the information from the transcripts and puts it into story format. It makes it easier to follow and contextualize. It's fascinating to read considering that at the time of publication, Diana's involvement with the book was largely unknown. Morton had to cover his/her tracks as best as possible. That makes a few parts a bit odd, but it also adds to the interest of the book in general. At no point do you forget just how explosive this was at the time of publication. We take for granted now that Charles and Diana's marriage was an utter sh*tshow in so many ways, but that was brand new information at the time.

The third section consists of the chapters Morton has added over time. This was easily the least engaging part of the book for me. It included very little "new" information. Morton had no insider access to information about the intervening years as he did with the original text. It makes this part of the book a perfectly acceptable addition to the plethora of information written about the royals in the last two decades, but nothing groundbreaking. It is very up to date, though. At the time of publication, an engagement between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was already imminent so Morton includes a reference to their relationship as well as other very current information such as the upcoming statue of Diana commissioned by the princes to be placed at Kensington Palace, the success of Prince Harry's Invictus Games, and the honorific inclusion of "Diana" as a middle name for Princess Charlotte. 

All in all, I found this book utterly fascinating. Because I'm an avid royal follower, there was not tons here that was new information for me. However, I felt Morton's text and certainly the transcripts of Diana's own thoughts were windows into her personality more than anything. It does get a little gossip-y at points, but that can be the nature of the beast when you are addressing one of the most public, brutal divorces in modern history. The book is certainly very biased in her direction (Morton includes extremely little information about Diana's own affairs and basically nothing about her relationship with Hasnat Khan, which many believe dramatically shaped her post-Charles life), but I felt her flaws shone nearly as brightly as her gifts if you read critically. Diana was such a complicated person. Morton does acknowledge to an extent how we have culturally deified her since her death. The dichotomy between her public and private personas is very evident here but also doesn't seem as contradictory as it has to me in other works about her life. Instead, I felt I got a better sense of her as a whole, complex person. 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, maybe

A Reduced Review: Despite being admittedly biased, this seminal biography offers a sense of the complexity of Diana, Princess of Wales. It's a fascinating read and one of the most revealing royal biographies I've ever read. 

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