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Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses (plus their servants, nannies, and one royal hairdresser) other formats – October 16, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451640013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451640014
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When the author, a Hollywood hyphenate (actor, voiceover artist, producer), came into an unexpected financial crisis, she needed to find a quick fix to keep the cash flowing. Because you don’t need a special driver’s license to drive a limousine, and because some of her actor friends told her it was a pretty good gig, she decided to become a chauffeur—just temporarily, you understand. But she didn’t expect to wind up driving around some of the world’s wealthiest people, members of the Saudi royal family. The book has a Lives of the Rich and Famous feel about it, but it’s not all about the money and the people who spent it (sometimes in utterly staggering quantities). In addition to the money, there’s some sentiment here, too, as the author comes to know these people, who seem to come from another world, and learns they aren’t so different, after all. Larson turned her experiences into a stage show, from which this memoir is derived. --David Pitt

Review

"Larson reveals herself to be an articulate and observant writer. She balances colorful tales of excess with musings on women’s roles, and accounts of bad behavior with consideration of the reasons behind it... There’s plenty of fascinating insider info, too, about the job, her charges (Saudi and otherwise), and Los Angeles." (Publishers Weekly)

No one, including the author herself, escapes Larson's witty scrutiny. Sharp-eyed and humane.” (Kirkus)

"[This] book has a Lives of the Rich and Famous feel about it, but it’s not all about the money and the people who spent it (sometimes in utterly staggering quantities). In addition to the money, there’s some sentiment here, too, as the author comes to know these people, who seem to come from another world, and learns they aren’t so different, after all." (Booklist)

“Driving the Saudis is an entertaining, fast-paced read. As someone who has traveled with the Saudi royal family, I can confirm that Jayne Larson provides an amazingly accurate account. So if you want to take a ride with royalty without leaving the comfort of home, read this book.” (Jean Sasson New York Times bestselling author Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia)

"Jayne Amelia Larson spent seven weeks with the .001% and returned with an astonishingly rich story to tell. Honest, compassionate, and deeply entertaining, Driving the Saudis is the story of a woman trying to support her dreams, make a few bucks, and keep a gaggle of pampered princesses happy without losing her mind (or her perspective) in the process." (Suzanne Morrison author of Yoga Bitch)

"Unlike most snappy memoirs about working as a temporary chauffeur for some of the richest people in the world, Driving the Saudis not only contains hilarious detail and horrifying excesses, but also serious social insight and moments of pure heartbreak. In her compulsively readable story, Larson has created memorable portraits of two cultures: theirs and ours." —Jim Krusoe, Parsifal

"A stolen glimpse into the world's most important and intriguing family. A wonderful book, wonderfully written." (Robert Baer author of New York Times bestselling Sleeping with the Devil and The Company We Keep)

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Customer Reviews

It was a well written book and fun to read.
Ms. Goose
I was somewhat disappointed in the ending, however, in retrospect, and knowing what I learned in reading this book, no other outcome was possible.
Booktrish
The author provides a very interesting perspective on the Saudi royal family.
SLP

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 67 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
For seven intense weeks, Jayne Amelia Larson chauffeured members of the Saudi royal family and their entourage around Beverly Hills. Working as an actor and film producer had left Larson in debt and she needed money fast. She started moonlighting as a chauffeur and then the Saudi gig came up, with promises of a big payout. Larson put in many sixteen hour days with few breaks. She was only in it for the money, she kept reminding herself. And that was appropriate, since the Saudis seemed to be even more about money than Americans are.

Larson immediately noticed the pecking order among the servants, in which a nanny outranks a maid, and nearly everyone outranks a driver, especially if she's a woman. Many of the royals barely acknowledged her, while others were polite, but never forgot or let Larson forget, their relative status. Still, it seemed ironic that the Saudi women should see her as an underling - in their own country, they were not allowed to vote, drive, go out without being fully covered or without a male relative as escort. In America, at least they could dress as they liked. The Saudi women spent their days in America shopping and getting plastic surgery.

Driving the Saudis started slow, and I thought it was going to be a name-dropping, brand-name studded tale of the rich and fabulous, but it quickly turned into a more complex narrative. Larson's job interview consisted of little more than determining if she was "a Jew." She was surprised to discover that all the servants had their passports confiscated by their employers, to preclude their leaving, which meant they were effectively slaves. She just kept reminding herself, it's only for seven weeks and I'm only doing it for the money.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ozmatoo on October 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While seeking to offset the financial plight faced by many "starving actors", author and playwright, Jayne Amelia Larson, chose a temporary chauffeuring job that might have buried the average person under the weight of culture shock and sudden demotion to the role of "second class" human being.

In the hands of someone less skilled this tale could have been easily turned into a tabloid style memoir, but instead Larson presents us with a wealth of fascinating anecdotes combined with insightful writing skills.

Clearly, the balance of Jayne Amelia Larson's empathy and intellect over-rides what might have otherwise been a judgmental account, and leaves the reader with a richly layered portrait of a world few of us will ever witness. The end result is a book that's impossible to put down, and an ultimately balanced and satisfying reading experience. --Ozmatoo, (Beverly Hills resident & patron of the .99-cent store)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. H. Bayliss on November 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was expecting much more of a low brow People magazine read but was delighted to find the observations (and the writing) much more nuanced and insightful. Sure, it would have been easy just to write a tell-all that dissed the royal Saudi family (I mean, how unflattering could the passage about killing all the Jews be??? And this was after we got to know one of the more sympathetic characters and then we realize anyone from the servants to the Royals feel that once the Jews are dead, there will be peace, Inshallah ?!). Plus we wait the whole book for her big pay off (the $20,000 tip she has been waiting for) and as you might imagine, that doesn't quite happen thanks to the lowly status of working women. The details make this book a pleasure to read - with a keen eye for relationships, cultural mores and foibles, the author takes on a front row center tour of how the Saudi princesses shop (and do they SHOP!), get cosmetic surgery and have the entire US government and police force wrapped around their oil soaked fingers. Read in the context of 9/11, it's a bit shocking that the Crown Vics that take the royals around for 7 weeks have more diplomatic immunity than any ambassador. While the book's contents are outrageous, the author helps us see compassion and the good side of at least some of the people she's charged with protecting. I'm still hung up on the extreme version of anti semitism (I doubt even the most right wing Jews would wish death and destruction upon the entire Arab nation/people thinking that would bring peace!) but again, the author handles even the most bigoted thoughts with grace so you can at least see where they originate. I came away thinking less of the royals than before but very highly of how the author navigates this complex maze of servitude and palace intrigue. A first rate read!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Unexpectedly, in catering to the every need of the world's wealthiest family, Jayne Amelia learns to take of herself herself. As a woman, Jayne's chauffeur duties are limited to the women, and to one lone hairdresser. She witnesses a life of untold luxury and at first finds herself striving to be the best driver in a contest that has no winner. Another driver tells her to take care of herself, herself.
Even with this advise, she performs a job of 24 hour on call service for seven weeks at a set price. She is exhausted, losing health and weight and even at less than full speed, the job has taken all her reserves. The finish line is the promised fabulous tip well known to all who cater to the Saudis.
This book avoids being a rich, richer, richest tell all as she gets to know some of her clients better and develops a deeper relatioship to other servants in their employ. SHe comes to see that the servant class lives permanently in the world of exhausted work, even in the sweet smelling luxury suites. She becomes inured to the sheer hysteria of huge amounts of luxury goods bought compulsively and shares the astounding figure that the Saudis consume 75% of couture items world wide.
In the end she sees the endlessly prohibitive existence of even the richest woman of the family and sees the underside of the floating world of consumption.
She does end the book with real affection toward many of her employers and co-workers, but is deeply disenchanted. One wonders what the ramifications are for the women who opened their hearts to her. This book is sure to have been read in Saudi Arabia.
Overall, this is a fascinating book that gives us a peak into a different world. (and if you know me, this is a big commendation in a book.)
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