Saturday, July 10, 2021

Review: Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

I was 10 when Prince Charles and Lady Diana married. My mother and sister and I all got up at some insane hour of the morning to watch the historic wedding with friends. Obviously I've been interested in the royals for a long time now. So when I saw Anne Glenconner, a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, on Graham Norton's show and giggled at her stories, I knew I'd want to read her memoir. I even ordered it for my mom for Christmas from England ahead of its publication in the US. While an interesting look into the world of spoiled, rich people behaving badly, and the tragedy filled life Lady Glenconner has lived, it was less engaging to read the memoir than it was to hear her anecdotes on tv. (Not my usual experience, by the by.)

Lady Glenconner's service to Princess Margaret is certainly the hook, and interesting enough, but she has lived an extremely privileged life herself. She was raised traditionally, within the aristocracy, to make an advantageous marriage and to keep a stiff upper lip no matter what. She's breaking with the latter somewhat in writing this memoir and exposing her terrible marriage, her husband's incredibly bad behaviour, including tantrums and gross eccentricities that might have been manifestations of mental illness, and the almost unbelievable experiences of her long life. Oftentimes this feels like a list of happenings in her life without the smoothness and connection of a well-wrought memoir. She does come across as scrupulously honest and even understated in her acceptance of the insanity of a life like hers which makes the reader wonder not only what her family thinks of her exposing their secrets but what her entire set thinks given their presentation here in such an unvarnished accounting. The tone of the book is rather blandly matter of fact throughout, even when recounting things that should be brimming with emotion, flattening the effect on the reader. She has led a pretty amazing life, filled with drama and tragedy, lived in close contact with the ever intriguing Princess Margaret for 30 plus years, and met some of the most famous names of the last century, but in the end this memoir was ultimately rather dull and disappointing despite the outlandishness of the things that she experienced. Probably only a must read for the most ardent of royal fanatics.

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