The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – Book Review

A possible assumption by owners of Carrie Fisher’s previous books would be: ‘I already know her story, this book will be a rehash, so why should I bother?’ Fortunately, this “sort of memoir” focuses on her life in the film industry in detail, rather than a wider documentation of her life on a whole.

While this was marketed as a kiss-and-tell and dragged Harrison Ford screaming from his anti-publicity cave into international scrutiny, the memoir has more beyond its superficial and scandalous dressing. It charts a young woman’s attempt to crawl out from her parents’ fame and forge her own identity. Perhaps not what the majority can relate to, however, wanting to break free from parental influence on one’s identity is a matter with which practically all can identify. The memoir obeys the formalities of memoirs, yet gifts the reader with an intermission of excerpts from Fisher’s Star Wars-era diaries: it is from this that the book draws its strength.

In fact, the diary excerpts hold some of the most beautifully succinct self-character evaluations: ‘I act like someone in a bomb shelter trying to raise everyone’s spirits’ [p153] and ‘She: One of us is boring. He: Why do you say that? She: Because . . . well, we’re just sitting here, not talking.’ [p162] These examples encapsulate Fisher’s youthful desire to be surrounded by cheerfulness and eliminate silence, of which makes her uncomfortable. Fisher could spend paragraphs surmising why these character traits were the case, yet a few diary scribbles accomplish this.

In addition to being about her entrance into the film industry, Fisher contextualises the 70s for younger Star Wars fans by painting a brief picture in the opening section, particularly 1976 (the year Star Wars was filming). ‘So many things were happening. The first Ebola outbreak occurred in Africa . . . A military coup deposed Argentina’s president Isabel Peron . . . Riots in Soweto marked the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa.’ [p2] Star Wars slots into the myriad of events forming 70s culture, thus, Fisher is implicated. Not many are fortunate enough to claim induction into popular culture or get to write about it. Her iconic hairstyle is also referenced in passing through an anecdote on its birth, which no fan would forgive if it were excluded from the book.

One of the most valuable insights for film buffs into her career is actually her account of the audition process for Star Wars and Carrie (George Lucas and Brian De Palma were auditioning for their respective films concurrently). De Palma is pleasantly approachable while Lucas is fairly unreadable (a joke that Fisher had no hesitation in repeating on a regular basis). Fisher is relatable as she stumbles through their questions, swaying from economical sentences to babbling (we’ve all been there during interviews). It’s a process not referenced or explored in Star Wars documentaries, so the degree of detail of the moment that changed her life is appreciated (and surprisingly well-remembered).

A darker portrayal of the film industry in the 70s presents itself in a party held for Lucas’ birthday. Fisher, the only woman at the gathering, becomes a source of mischief as the rowdy crew ply her with alcohol. As can be expected, the situation careers out of control and it’s heavily implied that Fisher was about to become a victim of sexual assault. Of course, this was the 70s so any enlightenment about the consent of inebriated women would be laughed at. Now that allegations of abuse in Hollywood have come to light, the segment serves as a reminder that sexual misconduct in the (Hollywood) workplace has always been prevalent and wasn’t regarded as seriously decades ago. It was this situation that sparked the Harrison Ford infatuation/affair, but I won’t go into detail on the prose and spoil their relationship’s formation. Missing are mentions of Mark Hamill. There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, which will make sense once videos of Hamill reminiscing Fisher are scoured.

Although a quick read, Fisher’s memoir is a welcome addition to her catalogue of books. It doesn’t mirror or overlap Wishful Drinking, choosing to focus on the moment she became a pop icon. A happy read is her acknowledgements section; a certain non-human is appreciated. For fans of Star Wars, it is a must-read. In retrospect of her death, The Princess Diarist feels like a purge of the feelings Fisher had amassed and contained throughout her life.

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Bookworm, Film/TV consumer, polyglot aspirant with an eye on social issues.

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