‘The Princess Diarist’ by Carrie Fisher and ‘The Color of Water’ by James McBride

I appear to be reading a lot of memoirs at the moment. After reading the two that will be the subjects of this post, I promptly moved onto a third and am close to finishing that one. I figured it was high time I got my act together and wrote about The Princess Diarist and The Color of Water.

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As I am sure you are probably well aware (it has had a healthy amount of news coverage recently, following her death), The Princess Diarist covers Carrie Fisher’s time filming the first Star Wars film, her affair with Harrison Ford and the overnight fame that the film’s release thrust upon her. As a Star Wars fan, I have always had a soft spot for Fisher and this memoir cemented my belief that she was the kind of person that I would quickly adopt as my best friend. The fact that Carrie is so honest about her mental health issues, that she can both laugh about them and write about them in such a raw, truthful manner, is what I really adore about her. I don’t really have any profound insights into this book, just that I read it, I enjoyed it and I wish that Carrie had not gone so soon.

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After The Princess Diarist I read The Color of Water. I had previously read James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, had mixed feelings about it, but spotted this in a bookshop and thought it sounded right up my street. In a nutshell, McBride chronicles both his own upbringing and that of his mother, a white Jewish woman from Virginia who married a black preacher, had eight children, married another black man after he died and had four more children, all of whom went on to college and successful jobs. Honestly, the woman is a powerhouse and I would be happy to have even a modicum of her strength.

To put it simply, I absolutely loved this book. It is probably my favourite book that I have read in 2017 so far (although, to be honest, I say that about a lot of books). The primary reason for my adoration of this book is the astonishing story of McBride’s mother. Perhaps a woman from a Jewish immigrant family marrying a Christian black man should not be somewhat unbelievable, but for early 20th century Virginia, it sure is. If you want a female role model who takes no BS and takes successful child-rearing to a whole other level, look no further than McBride’s mother.

In addition to being a fantastic story, McBride’s writing really enhances the memories he is describing. He can switch from dry wit to moving sentiment in a matter of paragraphs without a jarring transition. I remember thinking how good a writer her was when I read The Good Lord Bird (although I never quite got into the actual story), but he is at his best here.

If there is one thing you take away from The Princess Diarist and The Color of Water, it is that old cliche: truth really is stranger than fiction. And boy does it make for a good read.

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