BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS

DIANA
Click to follow
"A portion of the royalties will go to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund". "A donation will be made to The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund on each copy sold of this volume".

Every one of the season's stack of Di-books carries a goody-goody message of this kind, to counter charges of cashing in on the year's national tragedy. All very well and worthy - but what portion of the royalties, may we know? How big a donation?

The Diana story continues, in death as in life, to be riddled with dreadful ironies and meannesses. Andrew Morton promptly republished Diana: Her True Story (Michael O'Mara pounds 15.99) with the additional subtitle "In her own words", and his text is updated with an account of the death, its aftermath (apparently her butler flew to Paris with a case of her clothes and make-up to prepare the body) and the funeral. There are also edited extracts from the transcripts of those hotly denied interviews between the Princess and Morton. Here's Charles's seduction: "Charles ... was all over me again ... I thought, 'Well, this isn't very cool.' I thought men were supposed not to be so obvious ... the next minute he leapt on me practically and I thought this was very strange, too ..." There are some nice photographs, especially those of the pre-Royal period. It is touching to note that Diana's own taste veered towards a range of cutesy, fashion-disaster jumpers, which clashed horribly with the soft furnishings at KP and Althorp.

Diana: The Caring Princess (Hodder pounds 9.99) is another "in her own words" book, and necessarily brief: a collection of kind words delivered to the unfortunate, with a deliberately grainy set of black and white photos. To a one-armed elderly man at a Help the Aged home, she said, quite unembarrassed: "I"ll bet you have some fun chasing the soap around the bath." Diana, Princess of Wales: A Tribute in Photographs (Michael O'Mara pounds 15.99) keeps the guff level low with slightly dull captions to its large, glossy pictures and no text. "She was imaginative and bold when it came to her choice of jewelry [sic]" says one, accompanying three snaps of the Princess wearing the same modest pair of pearl ear-drops.

Few books can resist a picture of the posy on the coffin bearing the word "Mummy". Certainly not ITN's commemorative tribute Diana: The People's Princess (Carlton pounds 12.99). Written by royal correspondent Nicholas Owen, and with a foreword by Trevor McDonald (most of the books boast an introduction by some charity personage), this seems to be the one to go for if you simply must have a Diana book. It's well-produced, the text is measured and thoughtful, the pictures well chosen.

Bramley Books were quick off the mark with Diana: A Tribute to the People's Princess by Peter Donnelly (pounds 7.99), rushed out on 29 September. The strain shows in its inelegant layout and cramped pictures. It includes some startlingly bad outfits, like Bruce Oldfield's pleated gold lame which made the svelte Princess look like an all-in wrestler. Formal photo-opportunities are mixed with a few paparazzi-shots, which seems ironic given the manner of the Princess's demise.

Anthony Holden's rather better-produced Diana: A Life and a Legend (Ebury Press pounds 16.99) runs a snatched photo of the Princess apparently practising ballet aboard a yacht, with the glib caption: "Of the unauthorised pictures inevitably taken of her, wherever she went, there were many which captured her private self charmingly enough to win her eventual approval." Holden talks about the woman he knew in themed chapters (the thing I find most impressive about her, and it's a point made in more than one book, is that she wrote her thank-you letters within 24 hours). The pictures are accompanied by quotes from celebs. Here's George Michael: "I truly believe that some souls are too special, too beautiful, to be kept from heaven ..."

He sounds like one of the kids in Diana: Children's Letters to God (HarperCollins pounds 12.99), where drawings and letters face yet more photographs (a very nice selection, in fact). Courtnay, age 6: "Dear god thank you for Diana and thank you for all the good things she has done. Amen." Ben, 6: "Deargod I houp landmins stoq. amen." "Please look after a new angle in heaven." "She is perfectly fine now." "Lots and lots of people love Diana, the whole world, even I love Diana." Remel, aged eight ends his/her dutiful little letter with an admirably brisk send-off: "Well good-bye Diana."

Comments