In Search of Herself
“Smith has done a remarkable job extracting what’s genuinely pertinent and interesting about Diana…If you’re going to read one Diana book, this should be it.”
Newsweek, August 23, 1999
“A tantalizing peek into the living museum that is European royalty and a portrait of Diana as a mentally ill princess. Wisely, Smith avoids psychobabble…and presents instead a narrative of the troubled princess’s travails….Smith paints a terribly sad picture of an unstable young woman whose destiny was sealed by her marriage….The liveliest parts of the book are about Diana’s lesser love affairs… The book …is an important achievement.Smith has done an impressive job of winnowing fact from fiction. She is also quite generous to her subject.”
Washington Post Book World, Page One: August 29, 1999, Charlotte Hays
“Smith amply and sympathetically documents Diana’s precarious mental state and her need for sustained professional help…Despite entering an already overcrowded field, Smith has produced a well-written, evenhanded work. There is also, remarkably, still a bit of juice to be squeezed from this particular fruit. The world may have believed Diana was the “people’s princess,” but Smith unsparingly details how Diana let down almost everyone who knew her.”
Time, September 13, 1999
“Sally Bedell Smith’s balanced and exhaustive biography….[is] a frank and complicated analysis…In Smith’s retelling, the ‘facts’ are contextualized in such a way as to make the readers question what they thought they knew….The princess that emerges here is not entirely unsympathetic. And Smith does have sympathy for her….Smith’s hand in the therapizing is mercifully light, and she acknowledges throughout that this ‘fractured’ personality ‘did her bit for society.'”
Newsday, August 22, 1999
“Smith presents us with a woman who was more a victim of her disintegrating psyche than of her husband’s indifference….Smith speculates that Diana would have had the best chance of managing her condition if she had lived an ordered, predictable life in obscurity. Instead, she became a woman who would be queen, which placed her before everyone’s eyes and beyond anyone’s help.”
New York Daily News, August 22, 1999
“By far the most sober and evenhanded look at the most mercurial personality of our time….Even followers versed in Di-nutiae can expect new details”
Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz
“All you could ever want to know……[Sally Bedell Smith] has done a great deal of sifting, comparing and inferring…gifted with psychological insight.”
New York Times Book Review, August 22, 1999: Cover Review
“Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sally Bedell Smith’s just–published biography of Princess Diana is its evenhanded tone. Smith does not champion the dead princess. She does not demonize her ex-husband Prince Charles, or his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles. She does not attack the royal family, emotionally frozen as it might be. Instead, Smith tries to explain how a beautiful, emotionally wounded woman tried and failed to handle the overwhelming pressure of being a princess, the mother of the future king of England, and a focal point for a billion ordinary people’s dreams….Being an American seems to give Smith an excellent perspective…In the end, Diana in Search of Herself paints a chilling vision of loneliness, need and untreated mental illness.”
USA Today, Deirdre Donahue, August 19, 1999
“Smith relentlessly but convincingly portrays Diana as a woman with severe psychological problems (characterized here as a ‘borderline personality’) who never overcame a serious eating disorder and was unable to sustain relationships … This is a sharply etched and engrossing study of an insecure and emotionally damaged woman coming apart at the seams.”
Starred Review from Publishers Weekly
“Smith has done a remarkable job extracting what’s genuinely pertinent and interesting about Diana….If you’re going to read one Diana book, this should be it.”
Newsweek, August 23, 1999
“Sally Bedell Smith’s portrait of the late Princess of Wales in Diana in Search of Herself tempts us to look again at the iconic princess, whose boundless charm, energy, and warmth contrasted wildly with her mood swings, bulimia, and shaky sense of self, all of which Smith addresses in this balanced analysis of the most charismatic member of the British royal family.”
ELLE September recommendation
“Unusual and mournful…calmly persuasive”
“[Smith] has taken a fairy-tale princess and rendered her as a believable woman who, borderline personality or not, is somehow more likable for her struggle against psychological troubles.”
Atlanta Journal & Constitution
“Probably comes as close as any outsider could to plumbing the stunning extremes of [Diana’s] personality and her traumatic collisions with two of Britain’s oddest and most firmly entrenched insitutions: the tabloid press and the royal family.”
“At once morbidly fascinating and profoundly sad…Princess Diana’s life seems less a candle in the wind than an accident waiting to happen.”
“Offers a fascinating account of Diana’s aristocratic upbringing [and] provides perhaps the fullest account to date of [her] half-dozen or so love affairs.”
Dallas Morning News
An engrossing character study of the beautiful, brave, but psychologically bent princess who became an icon, by Vanity Fair contriduting editor Smith. Diana, her family, her friends, and the media who dogged her seemed bent on denying the serious emotional problems that shaped her private and sometimes public actions.
According to Smith (Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Churchill Harriman, 1996), Diana almost certainly suffered from borderline personality disorder, a psychiatric diagnosis characterized by feelings of inferiority, dependence, and confusion about identity. Borderline personalities are often “self-destructive, easily depressed, panicky and volatile,” while superficially “charming, insightful, witty, and lively.” As revealed in this profile, backed by archival research and personal interviews, Diana was all of the above and more.
Given to bulimia, self-mutilation, lies, and suicide attempts through most of her adult life, Diana’s problems began at six years old when her “childhood was shattered” by her parents’ separation; the pressure of her royal engagement brought all her insecurities to the surface. Charles was unable, although at first not unwilling, to cope. He arranged psychiatric counseling several times, to no avail.
In 1985, Diana took the first of a series of lovers, and Charles turned to Camilla; envy, vengeance, pride, fear, rage, despair , and ignorance all played roles in the divorce that followed, says Smith. She maintains an even keel in assessing the princess, giving credit for her genuine devotion to her children as well as her warmth, compassion, and generosity. The author also acknowledges Charles for trying, if ineffectually, to help his wife, while indicting the British tabloid press for using her to sell newspapers. Probably not the definitive study (many witnessses to Diana’s life are still unwilling to talk on the record), but an informed and astute appraisal of the 20th century’s possibly most celebrated celebrity.
Reprinted with permission. © Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP.