If all you know about Carrie Fisher is that she starred in the Star Wars film franchise, The Princess Diarist is going to be a great awakening for you. You’ll start on familiar ground, in that it’s Fisher’s memoir about her time filming the first installment in the series back in the late ’70s, but you’ll get to know her on a whole different level – and, undoubtedly, it’ll leave you wanting more.
Fisher actually calls The Princess Diarist a “sort of memoir”, I suppose because it’s a bit of a mash-up. The book includes excerpts from the diaries she kept as a 19-year-old, contextualised with commentary from her later years. She’s also worked in a bunch of fascinating behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Star Wars, and dedicated the book to George Lucas, Mark Hamill, and the rest of her intergalactic crew.
It begins in 1976, filming on location in London, but Fisher does take the time to explain a bit of her back-story prior to that. She was one of the OG nepo babies (daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, who famously split when Eddie left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor). As a result, she went into show business already jaded about fame and performance, entirely unsure whether she wanted to be there at all but determined to have a good time while she was at it.
And here’s the big ticket item: most of The Princess Diarist revolves around Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford, her then-married father-of-two co-star. I think we all kind of “knew” that they’d hooked up on set, but… well, let’s just say, this kind of explicit confirmation was unexpected. It turned into a far bigger news story than Fisher expected too, as she said on The Graham Norton Show.
This is an episode that’s only potentially interesting because its players became famous for the roles they were playing when they met.The Princess Diarist (page 188)
And, let me tell you, there are confessions and passages in The Princess Diarist that you couldn’t have waterboarded out of me if I were Fisher. The extracts from her diaries are C.R.I.N.G.E. I nearly died from secondhand embarrassment. There are love poems 19-year-old Fisher wrote about Ford, for crying out loud. There are even a few thinly-veiled allusions to a desire to take her own life as a result of their affair and his indifference to her when they weren’t having sex. I mean, Facebook memories are bad enough – this is Fisher putting her most private, vulnerable thoughts from one of the most shameful periods of her life into the public sphere for comment and criticism.
The more you read of The Princess Diarist, though, the more the decision to “put it all out there” makes sense for Fisher. She’s very aware that she’s an over-sharer. She makes no bones about the fact that she struggles to contain herself, to keep private thoughts private, to intuitively know what she should hide and what she should show. And she’s completely frank about needing money to maintain her lifestyle – and “selling her story” in The Princess Diarist was a way to do that, a less-schlocky one than going to a tabloid or writing one cheap tell-all.
Sadly, there wasn’t much of her lifestyle left to maintain, in the end. The Princess Diarist was Fisher’s last book, published shortly before her death in December 2016. Naturally, the explosive revelations about the affair coupled with her untimely passing ensured that it rocketed to the top of the New York Times best-seller list.
I had my qualms about The Princess Diarist – Fisher repeated herself often, and she was really, really down on her body/weight all the time, which was a bummer – but none at all about Fisher herself. After I turned the final page, I immediately turned to YouTube and watched every interview and appearance clip of her I could find, and every single one had me howling with laughter. I can’t wait to read more of her work – and given that she’s written two other memoirs, four novels, and a one-woman show, I’ll be spoiled for choice for a while.
My favourite Amazon reviews of The Princess Diarist:
- “OMG! I should’ve known better than to believe the blurb. It is hardly an “intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time”: Fisher admits it herself – she hardly remembers what happened on set because she was strung out on Ford’s pot most of the time. What a disappointment!” – jeaneeem
- “An evening with Jar Jar Binks would have been less painful than reading this book.” – JS2012
- “The entire middle third of the book is devoted to the Harrison Ford affair. And as it turns out, listening to a 60 year old woman discuss a teenage affair she had with a married older man with a 1-dimensional personality more than 40 years ago just isn’t that interesting.” – wparker1339
- “Self-indugent crap. She was 19 when she wrote it, but old enough to know better when it was published.” – JJ