A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, there lived a girl called Carrie Fisher who turned up at an interview for a small-budget space movie and ended up being one of the most iconic Science-Fiction Princesses of our time.
This week’s Biblioshelf Musings is all about The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. It should be no surprise that as a massive SFF fan, Star Wars is pretty high up on my personal ‘best-film-franchises’ list, even if I was somewhat later to the party than most of my friends. I was so excited when Carrie first announced this book and then after the unfortunate tragedy of her passing not long after the book’s release, it became something surreal which felt a little too personal to be reading at that point in time. Anyhow, since the conclusion of Episode IX and TV shows such as The Mandalorian reigniting my passion for Star Wars again – now seemed like a brilliant time to read Carrie’s final book.
Book: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Publication Date: 24th November 2016 (Paperback version)
Publisher: Black Swan
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
When Carrie Fisher 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. Now her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her co-star, 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. 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 candour and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.
The Princess Diarist is such a powerful insight into Carrie Fisher’s mind and life. I can’t quite put all of my truest feelings about this book into words, but what I can say is that I am so pleased that we got to see this book in its fully published form before Carrie’s tragic death in 2016.
Carrie starts off brilliantly by practically listing all of the events that happened in 1976. This was great for me – as someone who wasn’t alive at that time, it provided a useful insight into the context of the mid 1970s and got my mindset into all that was going on in the world prior to the phenomenon that Star Wars was going to be. After giving a few insights into her life and her first acting role in the film Shampoo, Carrie quickly moves onto the interview process for A New Hope before launching into a chronological account of her memories during filming.
It’s so hard to read this book and not hear Carrie’s voice in your head. Her entire narration just exudes her personality and character – almost like
and I hate using these words a word-vomit just filling the pages throughout the entirety of her commentary during that time. The stream of consciousness just pours out of her – there really is no other way I can describe it. At times, she even repeats some of the same iterations and phrases, then gives colloquial asides almost as if you’re just one of her friends and she’s talking to you from across the coffee table or down the phone. It’s that kind of narration-style which was a little like a double-edged sword for me: on the one-hand, I loved it because it felt so authentically like Carrie Fisher… on the other, there were a few times where I felt that line of narration became slightly too repetitive and I lost the momentum and pace of the memoir.
There are always two sides to every story which Carrie makes sure to mention when discussing her relationship with Harrison Ford. She gets quite deep and personal when reflecting upon her feelings towards her affair with him. Whilst she always maintains a respectful tone towards him and keeps some of the more intimate details of their relationship private, she definitely isn’t holding back on just how deeply she became emotionally and physically involved in their relationship during the time of filming.
That raw, vulnerable honesty is exuded even more so through Carrie’s personal diary extracts and poems. For me, this was the best part of the book by far. Spliced into the middle of her memoir, those extracts are so powerful at showing the reader exactly what her mind was going through during that time. You can feel the hurt, the abandonment, the despair, the desire, the devotion and that never-ending hope. The level of emotion is so undeniably real that I ended up feeling a little bereft at the end that section knowing that, whatever Carrison’s relationship was, it was always really doomed to fail.
What that diary part really does achieve, is to showcase Carrie’s talent for poetry. I’m aware that Carrie had previously published work as an author before this book, none of which I’ve read so ultimately cannot compare to anything, but her poetry really did make me consider her to be a talented writer.
In the latter parts of the book, Carrie considers the impact that the success of Star Wars had upon her life and just how intertwined her identity became caught up with Princess Leia, especially with that incredibly distinctive hairstyle and that bikini costume. Who would Carrie Fisher be without Princess Leia? She discusses the cost of fame on her normal life, the monetary issues which she faced, the objectification in a predominantly male environment then long afterwards by adoring fans begging for a piece; just how difficult it was dealing with the aftermath of appearing in a little space film which ultimately ended up being one of the most famous movie franchises in the entire world.
The final closing part of Carrie’s memoir, broke me. Again, I reiterate what I said at the beginning of my review – it is so difficult to communicate these thoughts in a way that anyone outside of my head can understand (unless, perhaps, you’ve read this book).
In a strange, morbid way, reading this book in 2021, knowing full well what happened not very long after this book’s publication – it’s almost like reading an epitaph that Carrie penned with her own hand – and Carrie’s words… they absolutely encapsulate her and her relationship with Star Wars and being Princess Leia.
I can’t write those ending lines down here and spoil it for anyone who does eventually read this book but… there’s just something about the finality of those last lines and her closing words that couldn’t have been anymore powerful or anymore perfect.
Carrie: you did it, you achieved exactly what you set out to do by publishing this memoir and these diary extracts – you proved that you’re more than just an intergalactic princess. Thank you for giving us this little insight into your world and may the Force always be with you.