Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A witty and profound portrait of the most talked-about English royal

She made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando tongue-tied. She iced out Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Andy Warhol photographed her. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine. Gore Vidal revered her. Francis Bacon heckled her. Peter Sellers was madly in love with her. For Pablo Picasso, she was the object of sexual fantasy.

Princess Margaret aroused passion and indignation in equal measures. To her friends, she was witty and regal. To her enemies, she was rude and demanding. In her 1950s heyday, she was seen as one of the most glamorous and desirable women in the world. By the time of her death in 2002, she had come to personify disappointment. One friend said he had never known an unhappier woman. The tale of Princess Margaret is Cinderella in reverse: hope dashed, happiness mislaid, life mishandled.

Such an enigmatic and divisive figure demands a reckoning that is far from the usual fare. Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues, and essays, Craig Brown’s Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is a kaleidoscopic experiment in biography and a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.

Full of quips and whimsy.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I thought it would be more of a biography, but it’s a bit more like a love story written for the Princess. Really. There were moments of whimsy – fictitious spots where the author takes liberties about whom she’s married and quips – she could be quite funny, but at other times downright mean. This gave an interesting view into her life, but it’s not complete.

If one is wanting to read a proper biography on the Princess, then this isn’t it. Like I’ve mentioned, there are bits of fiction in there and some conversations recorded that probably didn’t happen that way. There are lots of bits and pieces of Margaret being quite rotten to people, too.

I liked that she could be quite snide and quick-witted. She knew how to take people down. But she also showed she wasn’t exactly a person of the people. She liked her lavish things and had little to do. She truly was the spare and she felt it. In that respect, I felt sorry for her. She had little to do and no one really gave her much direction.

If one goes into this book with the notion that it’s not all fact, then it’s a fun book. Why not give it a try? There truly are glimpses of the Princess, but it’s not always what you might think.

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