From Publishers Weekly
Princess Diana was "the best thing to happen" to the British royals "since the restoration of Charles II," concludes Brown in this dishy biography, and the royal family's error was not realizing that. It's tough to pigeonhole a peacock, but Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, tries, calling the late Diana a diva, "a siren of subversion" who "even as a small girl... had been dangerous when hurt." Brown shows how Diana excelled at manipulating the media; her in-laws could only stand by helplessly as she captivated the cameras by batting her eyes or lowering them in her trademark "Shy Di" look. So enamored of herself was Diana, according to Brown, that she claimed not to understand why a certain cardiologist preferred his work at the hospital to seeing after her. Brown interviewed more than 250 people, from Mikhail Baryshnikov (who found the late Princess "so much more beautiful than any photographs or TV") to a friend of Diana's late mother, who says that mum disapproved of her daughter's too hasty royal marriage and tried talking her out of it. In the battle of unpleasant revelations made by both sides in the Di-Charles battles, Brown speculates that Squidgy-gate was the product of MI5 bugging the royal phones. Brown gives her book a tabloid-lingo touch and can fall into melodrama (while everyoneo saw Di's life as a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, the author says, it "was becoming more like something out of Hitchcock"), but then, given the nature of the subject matter, a little melodrama is entirely fitting. However, the final portrait of Diana as a heroine who broke free of the royal bonds and changed the monarchy forever will be familiar to most readers.
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There are few who could delve as successfully into Princess Di's life as the celebrated Tina Brown, who combines her journalistic savvy with the gossip only an insider could know. While she stresses Diana's role in changing the relationship between the press and the House of Windsor, Brown offers plenty of juicy details, "varying from credible to melodramatic to weirdly sitcomlike" (New York Times
)-from Diana's sexual relationship (remember Squidgy?) with Charles to her insecurities, her bulimia, the castles, the rivalries. Diana comes off as a bundle of contradictions, which was part of her appeal. If The Diana Chronicles
is, in the end, a book partially built on others, it is nonetheless "a trashy (if delicious) tale ... rendered vividly mordant" (Wall Street Journal
).Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.