The Princess Diarist (Book Review)

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The Princess Diarist, written by Carrie Fisher, also known as the only Princess in the galaxy to have strangled a giant slug with the help of her metal bikini, is the story of the beginning of an acting career. A career which would become much greater than ever anticipated, at the young age of 19 years old. This is Fisher’s seventh book, and sadly, her last. “The Princess Diarist” is one of her three memoirs, the first being Wishful Drinking published in 2008, and the next Shockaholic published in 2011. While her first two autobiographical books cover much of the early years of her life, being raised by her movie star mother Debbie Reynolds and abandoned by her father Eddie Fisher, The Princess Diarist delves into the beginning of Fisher’s own acting career. This began with her very first role in a film called “Shampoo”, and quickly moved to becoming the iconic Princess Leia Organa, in a low-budget Sci-Fi film called Star Wars, which later came to be known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

Fisher is incapable of telling a single story without a hint of sarcasm and disenchantment in her voice, from recounting her first experiences with boys (who she now realizes were gay men) in her early teens, to the memories of her affair with her 35-year-old co-star Harrison Ford, who would later become her movie husband, Han Solo. She describes what it’s like to be a young woman, or in her words “jail bait”, working and spending her weekends with an almost entirely male cast and crew in London for the filming of Star Wars. We learn about her infatuation with Harrison, both in her words 40 years after the fact, and through the diary entries written when she was 20, consisting mostly of poetry about her undefined relationship with him. Aside from this topic, Fisher goes into detail about the pressures of fame that she had never expected, and wasn’t necessarily sure she even wanted. Stories were told in full conversations with the crazed fans she would meet, always desperate for what she called a “celebrity lap dance”, or more commonly known as an autograph. She reveals what it was like to no longer be seen as just a woman, but a space Princess. Of course after the hype of the original trilogy died down and years had passed, money started to become a problem. She often found herself at comic conventions, bitterly giving celebrity lap dance after celebrity lap dance for cash. Fisher doesn’t go into a great amount of detail about her struggle with mental health, but it can be understood how it affected her from the way that she thinks and speaks about herself, and especially so when she was a less confident, younger woman. Her cynicism and her wit make it clear that now, 40 years later, as she looks back on the biggest changes in her life, she can’t take it all seriously. Shortly before Fisher passed in December of last year, the Star Wars films were revived, and she took part in two more titled Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As she describes at the very end of the first chapter, the revival was, “like an acid flashback, only intergalactic, in the moment, and essentially, real.”

“The Princess Diarist” is enjoyable to read primarily because of its humor. Not to say it would be a bad book if it weren’t funny, or that it’s only funny in the way that Fisher is constantly telling jokes, but because she portrays her attitude and voice so well through her writing, the entire recount of her experiences seem like one big joke, making it easy to relate to and laugh at past experiences as she does. Even though this is a story about life-changing experiences, none of it is taken too seriously. You could say that she generally doesn’t take life itself too seriously. For fans of Star Wars, don’t expect to learn too much about the filming of the movie, what it was like to be on set, or what all of her co-stars were like. You don’t learn about Princess Leia, you learn about Carrie, who is dealing with sharing a part of herself with Leia. She comments that frequently they are mistaken for the same person. If you really want to learn more about Carrie Fisher, read this book. She describes her experiences during the filming of Star Wars with new and interesting details, but the important thing is that the way she speaks about them allows readers to understand what these experiences felt like for her.

This book is not just for young women, Star Wars fans, aspiring actresses, or Carrie Fisher fans. Known for speaking her mind and cracking a few jokes in the process, Fisher wrote a book for anyone who can share a laugh about the absurdity that is fame, popular culture, body image, giant hair buns, and love. If you can enjoy sarcasm, obscenities, references to oneself and their breasts as though they were two different entities in the world of film, detailed descriptions of the way Harrison Ford managed to look uninterested all the time, and sad poems about young love, then give it a read. Even better, listen to the audiobook narrated by Carrie Fisher herself, and her daughter Billie Lourd, who reads the diary entries.

The Princess Diarist

Carrie Fisher

272 pages. Published by Blue Rider Press. 2016.

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