Title: The Princess Diarist
Author: Carrie Fisher
Date Completed: 31 March 2017.
Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
When Carrie Fisher recently 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. Today, 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 costar, 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 candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.
I am a HUGE fan of Star Wars. I grew up watching the movies, I have very strong opinions about which of the films is best, and I struggle to sit through any of the newest ones without crying because they get me right in the nostalgia-feels. I saw Rouge One the same week that Carrie Fisher died, and I think I felt the way people felt when Alan Rickman died. Someone who had been such a substantial part of my childhood, who had portrayed a character I had looked up to and loved (I once went to primary school with my hair like Princess Leia, only to take it out in tears when one of the kids made fun of me). I had never read any of her writing before she died, and honestly I didn’t know much about her life outside of Star Wars, but after she passed away I knew I wanted to read The Princess Diarist.
A lot of people have criticised the book because it doesn’t really give all that much of an insight into the filming of the first (IV) Star Wars movie. I couldn’t have cared less. Fisher wrote with such humour, honesty, and openness, about what was clearly an incredibly formative time in her life. I found myself smiling time and time again as she reflected back onto what life was like at nineteen – the anxiety, the insecurity, the crushes, the feeling of immortality. Although I wasn’t on the set of what was the become one of the greatest movies of all time at nineteen, and I definitely wasn’t having an affair with my married co-star, it felt so relatable. She managed to tap in exactly to how it feels to be a teenager, and look back on it with fondness, embarrassment, and honesty.
Part of the book is made up of excerpts from the diaries Carrie Fisher kept whilst she was filming the first Star Wars movie. In the audiobook, these sections were read by her daughter, which worked brilliantly. Again, people have said that these sections were too vague, they didn’t mention Star Wars enough, they weren’t what they were expecting, but to me those criticisms are ridiculous. The diary sections weren’t pages of a manuscript, written in hindsight, with the intention of giving an audience information. They were pages from a very private diary, kept by a young woman who was feeling incredibly smitten and incredibly out of her depth. As a young woman who as felt (as to some extent continues to feel) both of those things, the diary entries, their raw-ness, the way they reflected a stream of consciousness without editing or overthinking, really resonated with me.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Princess Diarist, and I think it was even more enjoyable because it wasn’t Star Wars heavy. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved a blow by blow account of what it was like filming Star Wars, but the fact it was more of a snapshot of Fisher’s life at nineteen made it even more relatable, enjoyable, and touching.