Ever read a novel that was fairly enjoyable but overall could’ve been just as well done in a shorter amount of pages? Shadows of a Princess, unfortunately falls into that book category for me.
I greatly enjoy and will basically devour any non-salacious reading material about the late Diana, Princess of Wales. I picked up this account by her one and only private secretary(serving from 1987 to 1996), Patrick Jepshon, believing that it would be an honest, respectful take on his years working for the Princess. Honest, yes, though in a way that began to border on character attack. Respectful, again, yes, however, I was confused on the author’s true feelings for Diana. There was nothing romantic about their relationship, though on the front fold of the book, it claims that Jephson was the “closest aide and adviser during [Diana’s] years of greatest public fame and deepest personal crisis.” In terms of facts, this rings true. He was, after all, her private secretary so I’m sure he witnessed an abundance of moods, thoughts, and candid experiences with the Princess.
However, I found the book to be much less interesting and enjoyable than I had hoped. At a whopping 456 pages (whew!) this literary account read almost like a personal memoir of Jephson, complaining about how exhausting it was for him to deal with Diana’a mood swings, vindictiveness, tendencies to play victim, the list goes on. He goes too back and forth between praising her and taking her ‘side’ against the media and royal critics and making very repetitive attacks on her characters.
He may have been her private secretary, though that doesn’t mean you’re best friends. I don’t believe the author really had the true right to distinguish Diana’s character as one way or another. We all have multiple sides to us, and, being fully human, have our flaws and shortcomings. Heartbreakingly, I couldn’t help but take his criticisms to heart as someone who really admires the Princess for all that she was.
I know that these memoirs from former employees, friends, ex-lovers, and all the rest can only be taken with a grain of salt. I wouldn’t honestly have chosen it for my library TBR pile if I had known it would be so plainly boring with a serious lack of spark.
If you are a fan of the late Princess, as a fellow admirer, I would encourage you to pass on this one.
A few other royal suggestions:
- Diana: Unseen Archives by Alison Gauntlett
- Diana, An Amazing Life: The People Cover Stories (1981-1997) by Editors of People Magazine
- A Royal Duty by Paul Burrell
- Diana by Sarah Bradford
- The Way We Were: Remembering Diana by Paul Burrell
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