It was one movie. It wasn’t supposed to do what it did – nothing was supposed to do that. Nothing ever had. Movies were meant to stay on screen, flat and large and colorful, gathering you up into their sweep of a story, carrying you rollicking along to the end, then releasing you back into your unchanged life. But this movie misbehaved. It leaked out of the theater, poured off the screen, affected a lot of people so deeply that they required endless talismans and artifacts to stay connected to it. –Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist
One of the greatest pleasures in life is being able to sit down and read a book cover to cover. I don’t get that opportunity very often, and this one kind of took me by surprise. I thought I’d knock out fifty to a hundred pages while waiting for the “come pick me up” call from my husband, but here I am, still at Starbucks, my newly completely read copy of The Princess Diarist next to me, and I am writing my review. Life is funny. But, sitting down and not focusing on anything else besides a good book and a conversation about Star Wars on Twitter was a much needed break from reality. I don’t get that very often these days. It seems I always have a client to please, a husband to cook for (the same one every time, thankfully), an apartment to clean up, laundry to fold, an interview to prepare for, a blog post to write, errands to run, or some other unknown task. Reading comes through audiobooks while driving to and from base or wandering through the grocery store, and through short guilt breaks where I take some time to read a few chapters of a book I need to finish before December 31st while the laundry stares me down and my cat stares at me indignantly, wondering why he isn’t currently the center of attention.
The Princess Diarist was a perfect book for one-sitting consumption. It’s short, stopping at just under 250 pages, but chock full of humor, wistful memories, and insight into her life as she went from the shadows to the spotlight in 125 minutes. The book is separated into three parts: first, what she could remember about the first Star Wars set and her relationship with Harrison Ford forty years after the fact; next, excerpts from the diaries she kept while filming Star Wars; and finally, a reflection on her rapid rise to fame and what that was like, along with quotes from conversations with her fans (whom she loves dearly). I came into the book expecting mostly excerpts from her diaries, with commentary alongside those. The format the book is actually in was surprising at first, but still satisfying. The thing that was most surprising to me from this memoir was Carrie’s relationship with Harrison Ford. Before reading this book, I would have guessed that Carrie and Mark Hamill would have had some sort of romantic relationship, not Carrie and Harrison. But, then again, I wasn’t around in the 70s, and maybe my dad, the one who introduced me to Star Wars would have seen this reveal coming. I’m also usually about ten years behind in the celeb gossip on average, so if this was a thing people knew about (although she indicates in this book that this is the first time she has ever spoken about their affair), I’m not surprised that I didn’t.
To say Carrie Fisher was my childhood hero would not be correctly phrasing how I felt about her. In many ways, I wanted to be her. I wanted to be Princess Leia, fighting to save the galaxy alongside a smuggler and a Jedi-in-training, almost as much as I wanted to be a Jedi. Okay, maybe past tense isn’t the whole truth. I would still absolutely be a sassy, strong Star Wars princess or Jedi (or both!) if given the chance. See, I am one of the thousands, if not millions, who was greatly impacted by Star Wars. The movies were my favorites growing up, and still are in many ways (although, those who know me best know I don’t have actually have a favorite movie. There are too many fantastic contributions to the nerd world for me to truly pick). I ate up the extended universe books as a teen, and was just as bitter as most others when Disney decided to push all of these stories into an “alternate universe” and start off with a clean slate. I still am. But that’s a rant for another day.
The Princess Diarist is a unique look into the life of a woman who never asked (nor wanted) to be famous, but wound up with worldwide fame basically overnight. It was both fascinating and incredible to read her perspective on the early years of Star Wars (including how much she hated the classic Princess Leia hairstyle!) and how she viewed her fans. Carrie Fisher was a woman who truly loved her fans. She appreciated them and loved hearing about the way Star Wars had changed their lives. She found them sweet and endearing, and I can only wish that I could have gotten to meet her before her tragic passing. A picture with Carrie, my always and forever favorite princess, would have been one for my own personal history books.
Carrie Fisher is also very relatable. The way she talks about her personal perception of her face and body is something I connect with on a very personal level. She notes that she wishes she could have seen and realized her own personal beauty when she was young and beautiful, and not when she looked back on it forty years later with a “melted face” (her words) and extra weight. It was comforting in an odd way to know that this woman who was so loved and seen as an unconventionally beautiful sex icon struggled to be comfortable in her own skin. It makes her portrayal of Princess Leia even more relatable, especially since, over the years, the lines between actress and character have been blurred through fan perception. However, to me, Carrie Fisher was always beautiful, even during her time as a drug addict. She had a sassy, tough, unconventional beauty about her that made her perfect as Princess Leia both forty years ago and today.
Published in October 2016, just two short months before her untimely death, The Princess Diarist is both nostalgic and poignant. She speaks of the future in several parts, and at her mention of episodes VIII and IX, I began to tear up. It is always heartbreaking when our childhood (and lifetime) favorite actors and actresses pass from this world, but to read this memoir and see how much she was looking forward to being part of the future of Star Wars is moving. I, and all of her countless fans, can only wish that she could have been around to continue to be a significant part of the Star Wars story.
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher gets 4/5 stars.