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.

A Shot at Normal by Marisa Reichardt

A Shot at Normal by Marisa Reichardt
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Dr. Villapando told me to get a good attorney. He wasn’t serious. But I am. I’m going to sue my parents.

Juniper Jade’s parents are hippies. They didn’t attend the first Woodstock, but they were there for the second one. The Jade family lives an all-organic homeschool lifestyle that means no plastics, no cell phones, and no vaccines. It isn’t exactly normal, but it’s the only thing Juniper has ever known. She doesn’t agree with her parents on everything, but she knows that to be in this family, you’ve got to stick to the rules. That is, until the unthinkable happens.

Juniper contracts the measles and unknowingly passes the disease along, with tragic consequences. She is shell-shocked. Juniper knows she is responsible and feels simultaneously helpless and furious at her parents, and herself.

Now, with the help of Nico, the boy who works at the library and loves movies and may just be more than a friend, Juniper comes to a decision: she is going to get vaccinated. Her parents refuse so Juniper arms herself with a lawyer and prepares for battle. But is waging war for her autonomy worth losing her family? How much is Juniper willing to risk for a shot at normal?

Nobody wants to catch a vaccine-preventable illness, but not everyone agrees on the best way to avoid it.

This story took a balanced but painfully honest approach to the question of why vaccines are such a crucial part of modern healthcare. I appreciated the fact that the perspectives of Juniper’s vehemently anti-vaccine parents was represented so fairly. They were depicted as well-rounded humans beings who loved their children and honestly thought they were doing the best thing for Juniper and her siblings. With that being said, the narrator also went into explicit detail about how heartbreaking and dangerous it can be when vaccine-preventable illnesses are allowed to circulate freely in a community.

As much as I liked both of the characters who fell in love during the course of this novel, the romantic subplot felt out of place. There were so many other important conflicts and moments of character development happening in the storyline that I think it would have made more sense to save this for a possible sequel. It wasn’t needed here in my opinion. I would have chosen a much higher rating if these scenes had been replaced with ones that explored the main themes in greater depth.

Speaking of character development, it was well done. This was especially true for Juniper who matured beautifully after her terrible experience with contracting the measles and dealing with the physical and social repercussions of this disease afterwards. She definitely still felt like a teenager to me by the final scene, but I also saw so many indications of the brave adult she was going to become soon.

A Shot at Normal was a thoughtful book I’d recommend to any teens who would like to explore this issue in depth.