For many Star Wars fans, Carrie Fisher has been a fixture for 40 years. Princess Leia made her an icon (or was it the other way around?). However, way back in 1976 London, Carrie Fisher was a young woman nearing the end of her teen years, trying to find her way as an adult, and in the process of creating what would go on to become a worldwide phenomenon.
In her new book, The Princess Diarist, Fisher seeks to shed light upon her experiences on the set of Star Wars and off. Turns out, much of her time off set involved her older co-star, Harrison Ford. It's a topic she has hinted at and danced around previously, but is now confirmed. For the three months they were filming Star Wars in London, Fisher had a secret affair with Ford, who was married with two young children at the time.
It would be easy to write salaciously about their relationship — to dish the dirt — but she doesn't do that. There are no juicy bits, and she makes it plain no intimate details will be revealed. What does come across clearly is her respect, love, and admiration for Ford. Then and now.
The Princess Diarist came about largely in the aftermath of finding long-hidden diaries she kept during the time of her affair with Ford. One highlight of the book is an extended section featuring selections from those diaries. In them, Fisher tries to come to grips with the situation she has found herself in (a situation she's not proud of, especially given her father's history of infidelity), and tries to work out her feelings for a distant, somewhat grumpy, and largely silent Harrison Ford. From poetry to prose, her writings lay bare her insecurities at the time — but also show maturity at times beyond her years. Her long-recognized talent as a writer and storyteller are plain to see in these early diaries.
I can't help but admire her courage in publishing these intimate peeks into her heart and mind. I never kept a diary, but I can say with absolute confidence I would never want anything I wrote privately when I was 19 years old made public. She takes it on faith that we, the readers, trust and understand her (to the extent we can), and, in turn, she trusts and shares with us.
Another segment of the book involves her relationship with fandom. As we know well, Star Wars fans are a passionate lot — and that has become increasingly clear to Carrie Fisher over the years. While she appreciates and has great affection for her fans, she also talks about her initial reluctance to participate in the convention circuit — referring to it euphemistically as “lap dancing.” At some point, however, she realizes paying the bills is necessary, and you do what you've got to do.
She touches briefly on returning to the galaxy far, far away with The Force Awakens, along with Episodes VIII and IX. I would have liked to have read more of her thoughts on returning after all these years, as well as a bit more on the making of 1977's Star Wars. However, it's clear the purpose of this book was accomplished. Airing out her time spent with Harrison Ford is the driving force (pun intended?).
I feared the revelations in the book would lessen my opinion of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. They didn't. That's not to say I approved of their intimate involvement, but it was what it was 40 years ago. Frowning on it now makes little difference. Does it affect how I view their characters? In the midst of reading The Princess Diarist, I did have the chance to watch the original trilogy. Admittedly, this fresh knowledge lingered in my mind. I didn't view that as an impediment to my enjoyment of seeing Han and Leia interact onscreen, however. Given time, any distractions will pass.
The Princess Diarist is a thoroughly enjoyable read overall. Suffering from a few insecurities of my own, there was much I related to. It's nice to feel a kinship of sorts with someone you've never met, but has been part of your life for so very long.
Note: The Princess Diarist contains language and situations not appropriate for younger readers.
Thank you to Penguin Random House and Blue Rider Press for providing a copy of this book for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines