Tina Brown, The Diana Chronicles
A fascinating contrast to The Crown is the recently published Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown. It is a groundbreaking book. The author invents a brilliant and original format to take on his subject matter. It calls out the notion that biographies (or autobiographies for that matter) can ever be truly comprehensive. He uses various constructions and literary devices (including fiction and hypotheticals) to zip in, out, and around Princess Margaret's life. It is a Cubist painting in book form. [And how appropriate: as the book surprisingly reveals, the great Cubist painter Pablo Picasso once hoped to marry Margaret.] One of the great advantages of the format is that it mostly eliminates her children from the story, leaving their privacy intact.
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is the story of a tragic woman. In contrast to her older sister, who devoted herself to duty and found happiness, Margaret sought pleasure, but found despair. Scattered among the book's glimpses of Margaret are glances at her sister, Elizabeth, and they stand in stark contrast. Margaret was witty and mercurial. She could be counted upon to make things interesting, if not always pleasant. Whereas, the very nature of the job required the Queen to keep things dull. The passages in the book transcribing Elizabeth's formulaic conversations at official functions have a Warholian brilliance in their banality.
The graphic design on the American Edition hardcover is superb. One might be tempted to purchase the book in hardcover and keep on the shelf. However, the audio edition is brilliantly narrated by Eleanor Bron. It adds much to the story (particularly as to the more comedic glimpses) to hear it acted out by Bron in the plummy, aristocratic dialect in which Princess Margaret spoke.