Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess
by Sally Bedell Smith
Published by Times Books
320 pages, 1999
Read an excerpt from the book
The Final Word?
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
Two years after her untimely death, it's easy to wonder if the world will ever forget Diana. At least, if it will ever forget enough to stop eating up every television show that's made, every magazine article that's written and -- of course, most salient to our purposes here -- every book that's published about her life. The instant bestseller status of Sally Bedell Smith's long-awaited Diana In Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess has got to make us wonder. And yet, Bedell Smith's reputation as both an author of well-crafted and non-sensational biographies and a journalist was enough to make this latest addition in the Diana wars worthy of a peek. In Diana In Search of Herself, Bedell Smith doesn't disappoint.
The result of that pregnancy was Diana, born on July 1, 1961, eighteen months after the birth and death of John. Diana's father was thirty-seven at the time, and her mother twenty-five. Johnnie declared Diana "a perfect physical specimen," but he still needed an heir. In Diana's adult life, the circumstances of her birth -- "the girl who was supposed to be a boy" -- assumed enormous significance in her mind as the first of a series of rejections that would splinter her self-esteem.
The portrait of Diana that Bedell Smith paints in this book seems the most level thus far. Diana is seen as a loving -- even doting -- mother who wanted to ensure that her sons never felt the lack of emotional warmth that she herself did while growing up. Diana's penchant for playing with the truth is examined, as are her much-reported eating disorders, her infidelities -- and those of her husband -- as well as her search for personal truths that took her to the farthest edges of accepted medical practice. And, in Bedell Smith's hands, somehow none of this is out-of-sync with the patient princess, the loving princess, the giving princess that the world fell in love with or even the troubled, contradictory and sometimes almost manic princess that those closest to her saw most often.
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine.