IN BRIEF: Books

Princess Margaret, A Biography by Theo Aronson (Michael O'Mara Books, pounds 16.99). It's such a strange tone, the one you get in these pulpy unauthorised biographies: the tongue dripping with honey on the outside, forked like a viper's within. "Although this book is in no way authorised or sanctioned," Aronson begins, "my chief thanks are to its subject, Princess Margaret." He has, apparently, been granted an audience with her while working on earlier projects, and is enduringly "grateful to HRH". Ugh. But we can be sure she'll be having him round for tea directly once she has read his findings on how she chatted up Mick Jagger -"wearing a low- cut gown that revealed ample cleavage". It's all considerably closer to Sylvie Krin of Private Eye fame than to Ben Pimlott's recent scholarly book on the Queen.

Margaret's private life, as we already know ad nauseam, has been often troubled. Her relations with the public have never been greatly marked by noblesse oblige. But so what, really? Aronson, for one, has no intention of letting an old lady off the hook. "She complains that she has been misreported and misrepresented since the age of 17," Aronson muses. "If this is true, then she has only herself to blame for leading such a controversial life ..." With sympathetic observers like this guy, who needs hatchet-jobs?

Margaret herself, however, does get the best line in the book. One time, Gore Vidal told her that Jackie Kennedy had told him that she'd always found the Queen "pretty heavy going". "But that's what she's there for," Megs imperturbably replied. Mm, quite. As the Princess herself has a habit of saying, apparently, while turning her back sharply and rudely on bad- mannered party bores.

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