Wednesday, January 18, 2017

book review: the princess diarist by carrie fisher.

*I'm playing around with a new format for book reviews! Let me know what you think!*

The Princess Diarist
by Carrie Fisher
Blue Rider Press, 11/22/16
4.5/5 stars

From the publisher:

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. 

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a regular teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

I finally finished reading The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher, and I'm so glad I did. The timing could not have been more, well, timely, with her recent passing. I had begun the book before she passed away, and finished it after the fact. It certainly brought a whole different perspective to my reading of the book.

The Good:

  • I just plain enjoyed reading this book. I went into it knowing who I was dealing with, meaning I had certain expectations for a bit of craziness, rawness, brashness, and even lewdness, and maybe I encountered more of some of those parts and less of others than I expected. It was an excusably jumbled collection of funny, often well-written, yet sometimes foggy memories and feelings. It was emotional and revealing and sad. Much more sad than I expected. Perhaps made more sad by Carrie's passing. 
  • Overall, it was something I came away from glad I had read. I feel like I understand the enigma that was Carrie Fisher just a bit more from having read it. I am going to have to read her other memoirs at some point, now.
  • Some parts were so funny and witty! Carrie may have had a sharp tongue in interviews, but she had an even more honed wit with the pen. 

The Bad:

  • I don't feel like I have any major criticisms of this. It's not a work of fiction. It is a piece of her heart. Sometimes it read like a confused, contradictory, jumbled mess, but I felt like that only reflected Carrie's clouded memories and feelings about that portion of her life. 
  • If there was anything truly bad, it's that the focus of this book sort of lasered in on the lead-up to her casting in Star Wars, the affair, the diary pages themselves, and then a meandering sort of wrap-up that brought us into the present. I wanted more details on life during Episodes V and VI. How were things between Carrie and Harrison then, when their affair had broken off but they were still working together? I wanted more details on other parts of her life, too, but I realize those parts have been covered in other memoirs and were too much to pack in here, again. It's not necessarily a bad thing that I came away wanting to read her other memoirs, though!

The Unexpected:

  • I expected more of the book to be her diaries from during the filming of Star Wars, and less her unpacking the situation before, during, and after for the reader.
  • I was surprised by how Carrie's writing voice was less reflective of her wild, brash public persona, and more introspective and thoughtful (all the while as wry and witty as you'd expect from her). If I had read any of her previous works, I'm sure I would have expected that. But it made the narrative all the more raw and sad when you realized she was a bit more down-to-earth than you thought she was.
  • Sure, it was her telling of the affair she had with then-married, much older Harrison Ford. But it was told in MUCH less racy detail and much more emotional detail than I expected.
  • I had no idea so much of the diary portion was written in the form of poetry! It was fascinating to digest nineteen-year-old-Carrie's feelings through the vehicle of her verse. 

The Takeaway:

There's no better time to read this book and get a glimpse into Carrie Fisher's last emotional, funny, witty, revealing memoir. I highly recommend it!

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