Tom's Reviews > Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess

Diana in Search of Herself by Sally Bedell Smith
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's review
Jun 18, 11

bookshelves: royalty
Read in June, 2011

This book provides a perceptive, no-flinching look at a young woman who apparently had little purpose in life except to project an image and be a celebrity. The highly detailed and well documented chronological survey reveals all of her psychological weaknesses that were hidden or glossed over by the British newspapers. Smith pours forth the evidence that Diana Spencer had a borderline psychotic personality, perhaps permanently damaged when her own mother deserted the family when Diana was 6. Smith credits Diana for presenting a public persona that was mostly glowing and sympathetic to the poor and sick. But, privately, she was quick to suspect the worst in close acquaintances and cut off friendships for the slightest grievance. Although she could charm nearly everyone with her smile and witty small talk, she remained an airhead, preferring shopping to reading. The book, focusing strictly on Diana herself, leaves many murky areas concerning others in the Royal Family. Just why did Prince Charles pick her for a wife when he could have had many others who were pretty and intellectually superior to Diana? Was it his own lack of self-confidence that he chose a much younger girl whom he perhaps thought he could dominate? The Queen's relationship with Diana is another area not fully explored. We get very little about her child-rearing activities. Perhaps the biggest unanswered question is why no one close to her fully recognized her psychiatric state and attempted an intervention. The Queen could have ordered it but chose to look the other way.
With so much detail, the book could have been made clearer if it included time lines depicting what was going on with Diana and Charles as the marriage crumbled. I am still uncertain as to which one was the first to commit adultery. Apparently both started getting the itch to stray around 1985-86. Diana, apparently convinced Charles already had gone back to Camilla Parker-Bowles, picked up a bodyguard, Sgt. Barry Mannakee, in the spring of 1985. Charles claimed he kept his liaison with Camilla platonic until 1986.
This book probably is best read in tandem with Jonathan Dimbleby's biography of Prince Charles. Someday, perhaps after Charles is dead, Camilla may feel free to add her memoir to the stew. But, sad to say, Smith's portrait of Diana may remain the definitive one -- a self-centered woman, refusing to undertake therapy in any disciplined way, and taking much more than she gave.
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message 1: by Jules (new)

Jules I like your review - it's really balanced. It's a shame that most media 'applaud' her without fully recognising her lonely state and possible (undiagnosed?) mental illness. We can look at anyone through a different 'lens' and this book certainly seems to offer opportunities for this. Thanks!

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