126 of 133 people found the following review helpful
I thought so. With special access to sources as a result of her stint as editor of the Tatler in the UK, Tina Brown has written the story of Diana as both a media creation and media manipulator.
Shockingly uneducated and raised in a broken home, Brown says Diana focused on Charles early as the embodiment of all her life had lacked. Diana was judged to be aristocratic, pretty, malleable and above all a virgin. Charles was, according to Brown, more or less pushed into it by his parents, who along with "Uncle Dickie," the assassinated Earl of Mountbatten, were growing tired of Charles' unsuitable dalliances.
But Diana refused to play along. I'm sure we've all secretely wondered, "so how bad could it have been?" Brown convinces us that it was very bad indeed. Charles was dull, unemotional, and more interested in books than his pretty young wife. The Queen ruled the roost. Surprisingly to me at least, even in private all the courtesies of royalty had to be observed--everyone was summoned to breakfast at 9 am sharp at Balmoral, the summer retreat; no one could retire for the evening before the Queen. Costume changes were endless, as were tramps through the rain and hunting. And of course Camilla was ever present.
In response, Diana became a star. Perhaps she surprised herself at first but it didn't take her long to catch on. She'd tip the media off to her whereabouts, learned how to dress, and used her amazing warmth and charm, not to mention English beauty, to upstage the Royal Family on a regular basis. They were furious. And so was Diana. She could not acccept the royal practice of state marriage and a lover on the side. She was too young, too romantic. But Brown also shows us that she was very canny, and her media gambles--the Morton book, the famous TV interview--paid off. In her divorce negotiations she came off much, much better than her hapless sister-in-law Fergie. Stunned at how badly Sarah Ferguson was treated, Diana vowed it wouldn't happen to her--and it didn't.
Sadly we know the end of the story. How ironic that the most famous and desireable woman in the world spent her last summer in the arms of Dodi Fayed, who, Brown claims, was also pushed into it by his status-seeking father. One wonders what would have become of her; by the end of her life the chances of her finding a happy relationship seemed quite remote.
I raced through this book, fascinated by Brown's wealth of detail. Diana wasn't a saint as some claimed, nor an airhead. She was deeply troubled and quite amazing at the same time, and to Brown's credit I finished this book feeling I'd gotten a glimpse of the true person. Highly readable; highly recommended.
259 of 288 people found the following review helpful
"August 31, 1997," the book begins. "Paris. The car that sped into the Pont D'Alma Tunnel at twenty-three minutes past midnight was carrying the most famous woman in the world."
Really? I know I rolled over and went back to bed when my then-wife --- who was 45 minutes late to our wedding --- woke up in the middle of the night to watch the Royal Wedding. Sure, Diana was a stunner. But very few men will tell you they want to spend more than a few hours with a bulimic woman of uncertain sanity. No, Diana was a chick fantasy.
The death? Another story. A horse-drawn wagon carrying a coffin and an envelope with one word, "Mommy," had the entire world blubbering. "I still weep when I see clips," a friend told me yesterday. "And the flowers in front of Buck House always get me."
But there have been so many books. And an excellent movie, "The Queen." What's left?
For most writers starting out on a Diana book in 2005, not much. But Tina Brown has a sharp eye for the telling fact. And her enormous Rolodex led her to sources who never talked before or who trusted her to Get It Right. The result is a reading experience that will take over your life until --- exhausted by unexpected empathy --- you turn the last page.
How is this? The end of the story is the most common memory on the planet. What don't we know about this woman?
Well, the "engagement ring" that Dodi Fayed bought Diana on the last day of her life --- he was in and out of the jewelry store in "seven minutes, twenty-seven seconds."
That last dinner at the Ritz --- Diana was "quietly weeping in full view of the clientele."
Camilla, on horseback, told Charles, on horseback, the first time they met, "That's a fine animal you have there, Sir."
How many times did Diana see Charles before their wedding? Thirteen.
When the marriage ended, what did Charles do with the unused wedding presents? Had them piled up in the garden --- and burned.
And there's so much more. Do the strange rituals of the Royal Family appeal to you? Are you curious about gossip columnists and photographers? And, most of all, do you get off on the sense of being in the room with real-life celebrities as their lives fall apart? Then "The Diana Chronicles" is an extra-large box of chocolates.
But this book is not just the greatest Vanity Fair cover story never written. Brown has a thesis. She doesn't bang you over the head with it --- it develops naturally. Like this: A shy, uneducated, dreamy girl from a dysfunctional family pushes herself into her country's ultimate family. Instead of finding Prince Charming, she finds herself married to a man who sneaks off to his lover every chance he gets. She's desperate for a hug from his mom, which is, of course, the last thing the Queen is able to give her. The marriage turns into the royal version of "A Star Is Born" --- she's going up, he's coming down. Envy, misunderstanding and misery ensue. Which leads to the wrong man, and another, and another, until she bottoms out with Dodi Fayed. "Diana told herself she was looking for love," Brown writes. "But what she was really seeking was a guy with a Gulfstream."
And the writing! Although the book is very much a narrative, the narrator does not seem like a writer at all --- "The Diana Chronicles" reads like a transcription of a brilliant raconteur. Here is Brown on the Ritz Hotel at summer's end:
...even the more exclusive areas of the hotel --- such as its restaurant, L'Espadon --- have a louche air of rootless extravagance. South American call girls with hirsute operators from emerging markets and rich old ladies with predatory nephews can be seen poring over the wine list under the trompe l'oeil of its opulent ceiling. Dinner for two sets you back $700.
Or this, Brown's takeaway of her lunch with Diana in July, 1997:
The heads of world-class celebrities literally seem to enlarge. Hillary Clinton's, for example, has grown enormously since she was the mere wife of the governor of Arkansas. It nods when she talks to you, like a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The years of limelight so inflamed the circumference of Jackie O's cranium, it seemed her real face must be concealed by an oversized Halloween mask. If you looked into her eyes, you could see her in there, screaming.
In these pages, we see Diana in there, screaming, and it makes all the difference. I always thought beneath that thin veneer was another thin veneer; Brown gives us a person. Indeed, she gives us all the people, fully fleshed. And, thus, surprising. Charles is much less of a jerk than you may have thought. And Prince Philip, a consistent dunce in "The Queen", does something quite magnificent at Diana's funeral.
Are there dead spots? Diana's childhood goes on and on. And the last few paragraphs made me uneasy --- I'm not at all sure Diana's sons are her "legacy". But those are small quibbles. Much more memorable is the intelligent conversation you have with a book like this --- for what is a more interactive experience than a smartly written book?
I sat on my window seat, book in hand, and read through the morning, was handed a sandwich, read on through the afternoon, ignored the child, day becoming night, the air cooler now, turning the pages faster, feeling the blood churn, wanting to shout no, no, don't...don't, and then the abreaction, the reliving of the funeral and the tears we shed for ourselves as much as for Diana --- yeah, the day I read "The Diana Chronicles" was a good one.
And the thing was, when I started reading, I didn't give a damn.
86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2007
Don't read the Diana Chronicles if you're expecting new bombshell gossip about the life of Princess Diana. But do read it if you're looking for an interesting book that offers a unique take on a famous life.
In the early 1980s, when Lady Diana Spencer was on the verge of marrying her prince, Tina Brown was the 25-year-old editor of Tatler Magazine. A few years later, Princess Diana was the most famous woman in the world and Tina Brown was the most famous woman in publishing. The women knew each other and even met for lunch six weeks before Diana's death.
At times, the Diana Chronicles seems like an encyclopedic version of every book ever published on the late princess - the footnotes alone run 34 pages! But, because the author has connections that most of her fellow biographers can only dream of, it does offer some new insight into Princess Diana's life and the lives of the family she married into.
The Diana Chronicles is less a history and more an analysis. Brown takes some of the more famous moments in the Diana/Charles/Camilla mythology and offers her opinion on what actually took place. She looks not only at Diana's childhood, but also at the English aristocracy in the late 70s and early 80s. And she explains why the Windsors thought Diana would fit a certain mold.
Brown is respectful of the late princess's memory, yet not in awe of it. She is less interested in breaking news than in offering explanations for the different facets of a very complicated, and very human, woman. Ultimately, what makes the Diana Chronicles so worth reading has little to do with the subject and everything to do with the author. Tina Brown can write. And she can write brilliantly.
Four and a half stars.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Yes, she was a mess. She had an almost insatiable hunger for love combined with ridiculous taste in men. She had a short attention span. She was, as Brown points out again and again, "a tactician," who often exhibited reckless disregard for the long-term consequences of her actions. All true.
And yet, even after all this is disclosed, the woman we see is am ambitious, empathic woman, a mother who loves her sons, and a charismatic force of nature with a nearly undefeatable spirit. I don't know if it's Brown's writing or the power of Diana's personality that make her someone you root for, even as she races toward that sad end in Paris.
My biggest quibble with the book is NOT ENOUGH PHOTOS. Over and over, Brown makes reference to this iconic photograph, or to that famous dress she wore, or how Diana's style changed to reflect her evolving personality ... and it would be nice if those photos were included in the book. I found this frustrating.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
The Diana Chronicles is narrated by the author Tina Brown whose impressive career in entertainment journalism has enabled her to write a detailed, believable and often salacious account of the Princess. Those who are curious about Diana's childhood in addition to the rest of her life and death, will not be disappointed by Brown's attention to detail. The Diana Chronicles fails in book or audiobook format, however, because it unfolds not as a story, but rather a gathering and listing of facts and events. Additionally, Brown's narration leaves the listener jarred. With a sharp, piercing English accent, Brown sounds half Robin Leech and half Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight. Her narration barks at a fast pace, much like a news broadcast devoted to the listing of facts. While this format might work for a three minute gossip news segment, it wears down the listener after more than fifteen minutes. Only diehard Lady Di fans will enjoy listening to all five and a half hours of this book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2008
I started THE DIANA CHRONICLES by Tina Brown by reading it in the store in parts. I figured it was ANOTHER Diana book, and I could pass some pleasant hours in the bookstore sitting in a chair going over some familiar ground. But I was surprised: Brown is an insightful, clear and unflinching writer who has the ability, due to her experience in print journalism, to view the famous through a cynical but knowledgeable media lens. This book was so good, that when I got 300 pages in to the 500-plus-page book, I bought it. It was getting hard to find, and I NEEDED to finish it.
The plotline of Diana's life does not need to be repeated here. What this book is good for is the way it examines her life and her responses to the events of her life as influenced by the media and the media coverage of the her every move. It's as if it weren't Diana and the media professionals who were in a relationship, but Diana and the media coverage who influenced each other. This study is a fascinating examination of how media attention can become a character in the narrative of a famous person's life. According to Brown, Diana made decisions not just in response to the other people in her life, but in reaction to press and how her actions might be reported and perceived. She lost the goal, at some points, of how press attention can influence individuals and became focused on the press itself.
This book presents a strong narrative, a plotline of a life that is compelling and cogent. Though we know the story well, Brown's reportage is complete and portrays not only a whole Diana, but a complete Charles and other royals who had to orbit her star while she was alive.
This was a fascinating book to read as an examination of a woman of fame who could not help but respond to the expectations of women in the times in which she lived. Reading THE DIANA CHRONICLES, one cannot help but think of the price some women pay to be the feminine, compassionate women the world wants them to be. When that world is personified by papparazzi and reporters in fragile woman's day-to-day life, her response can be astonishing.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I'm not a Diana-phile but when I heard that Tina Brown was writing a book on Diana I knew I'd have to read it. Tina Brown's take on popular culture is unique. She's not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, you may not always agree with her but at her best Tina Brown is thought-provoking.
I approached this book as Tina's Take on the Diana Myth rather than an in depth biography full of new and startling revelations and it met my expectations, in a few cases it exceeded them. Brown offers more information about the breakup of the Spencer's marriage, it's impact on Diana, Diana's childhood and years as a Sloane Ranger. It's not exactly a sympathetic portrait, that's not Brown's style, but it is far from harsh.
Brown's POV is that Diana was used by the royal machine but that Diana was hardly the hapless victim. You won't be filled with admiration for any of the major characters in the book, especially not Camilla Parker-Bowles. Ultimately Brown does express some good old fashioned righteous indignation at Diana's plight but I couldn't help feeling that Brown was more outraged at the royal family than truly sympathetic toward Diana.
The best, most comprehensive biography of Diana is still Sally Bedell Smith's in terms of thoroughness and clarity. (I haven't read of the ex-lover/former servant/body guard books /Morton books nor any of the standard hagiographies, so I can't comment on them.) Brown's book is effective as interpreting the "icon of blondeness" but doesn't add a tremendous amount to our understanding of the woman behind the icon. Take it for what it is and this is great beach reading.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2007
Tina Brown's even-handed account of the life of the late Princess of Wales has, somewhat to my surprise, remained with me for some time now. What lingers is how remarkably rarely any of people at the center of the story showed even the simplest kindness to each other. (Diana could be exceptionally, and, I think, genuinely, compassionate to the strangers she encountered in her work, but pitiless to people she knew well--with the major exception of her sons.) There is plenty of blame to go round, but among the many people, including Charles and Diana themselves, who contributed to the breakdown of the Wales's marriage, Camilla Parker Bowles stands out. Ms. Brown seems to think that, in spite of all their differences, Charles and Diana might possibly have managed in a "good enough" sort of way had Camilla been able to refrain from pursuing the prince.
Tina Brown, a very intelligent writer, talked to everybody, and it seems, everybody talked to her, and in the frankest possible way--a surprising number were willing to be named. You will not be disappointed by lack of information--Ms. Brown traces the sources of the royal couple's relationship problems back over three generations. Every detail is there, clearly, thoughtfully arranged, with what is probably a high degree of accuracy. Not infrequently there is an "if only" point: if only the Queen had been less stiff, if only Charles had been more courageous and less Edwardian, if only Diana had been less in need, if only Camilla hadn't interfered just here or there, if only the press hadn't been so intrusive... One keeps hoping that somehow things won't end in the tunnel in Paris.
But they do.
Will you enjoy this book? It's well written, thoughtfully assembled, terrifyingly thoroughly researched, with lots of dish. The central character has beauty, compassion of a deep but narrow kind, and incredible charisma. But the mean-spiritedness of nearly everyone involved, the intra-family betrayals, and the plain human misery associated with Diana's story is not at all a "fun" read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2007
I was 16 years old in 1981 and remember vividly rising before dawn on July 29th to catch every televised moment of Diana's wedding. In my mother's garage today there is at least one Diana scrapbook that I obsessively assembled from all the media coverage that summer. I have not been able to bring myself to look at that scrapbook; for years before the accident in Paris, the Fairy Tale was exposed as a cruel sham. Being so near Diana's age, and thinking of her kind of as a glamorous older sister, I took her untimely death very hard and have read any number of books on her since. Being so well-versed in Diana lore, I was doubtful that Tina Brown's book would add much I didn't already know and I was correct. The Diana Chronicles, although exhaustively researched and footnoted, recycles every tidbit we already know about Diana's early life, rise to Princess of Wales, the marriage, the affairs and the divorce. It is a dense read, unleavened by any photos or personal notes and tends to get bogged down in geneological detail that is not relevant for most readers, who want to know about Diana, not particularly which very distant Spencer relative slept with whom. Brown does present a comprehensive portrait of Diana's last few years of charitable work, and Diana's state of mind as she searched for a non-royal suitor who could keep her in the style to which she was accustomed. The portrayal is a balanced one--Brown captures Diana's immense generosity and emotional intelligence without varnishing her equal parts vindictiveness and addiction to self-absorbed drama. She is matter-of-fact about the dysfunctionality of the Royal Family and their contribution to Diana's eventual breakdown, but also writes with compassion toward Charles and other members of the Royal Family who had no clue how to handle Diana. Despite the fact that the Windsors did need some shaking-up, and badly, Diana was not a shake-up so much as a destructive earthquake. For all of Diana's wonderful qualities, she was also exceedingly unstable, and her entrance into the Windsors ushered in a Perfect Storm. Time has softened public opinion toward Charles; despite all his flaws of character, it cannot be denied that to call Diana a difficult spouse is a massive understatement. You may find this book fascinating if it is your first foray into Diana-ania, but it is a 'safe' project that plows no new ground.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
A fascinating read, and it doesn't really take sides. You will come to really like or dislike a lot of the real people in the book, and there is a lot of previously unknown information-----and I admit I made excuses when Diana did not behave too well, but if anyone ever had a right to after what was done to her, SHE did.
I really do recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Royals.
You will come to feel you know them---oddly I softened a bit towards Prince Charles a few times, but I still hold him responsible for the slow destruction of a naive and innocent teenager.
I NEVER came to like Prince Phillip or the Queen any better-----or Princess Margaret et al. Remain and always will, a true believer that Camilla was despicable.
How do you take vows of marriage and then blithely say that affairs are the way of life in that "upper class" set? Makes them LOWER class in my eyes.
Diana dragged the monarchy into the modern world and if not for her I don't think they would still exist. They should have been kinder to her.
Very good read.