BOOK REVIEW / Grim fairy-tales of the first family: 'Family Secrets: Ronald Reagan's Daughter Speaks Out' - Patti Davis: Sidgwick & Jackson, 14.99

BEING the daughter of Ron and Nancy Reagan sounds pretty grim. There's Mom popping pills and eavesdropping on conversations. There's Pop ranting on about Commies when you're trying to watch television, then staring into space when you try to tell him that Mom's beating you like a gong every time she has one of her little freak-outs. This stuff is fairly routine but sometimes there are high points, like Pop getting you out of bed in the middle of the night to show you how to perform a tracheotomy on Mom, because she has these fits. Or Mom slamming the door in the gardener's face when he comes to the house asking for a glass of water because he's having a heart attack.

In shops Mom always makes a point of saying she's forgotten her chargecard (though her handbag is full of them) and then throwing a tantrum when the shop assistant asks her her name because she thinks everybody should recognise her. Then there are bothersome things like Dad suddenly coming home with a couple of older kids one day and saying 'This is your half-brother and sister - I forgot to mention them before.'

So, yes, one can see that Patti Davis has a point and that the Reagans were not ideal parents. On the other hand, how much of what she says should we believe? She admits in the book that 'I was an accomplished liar: I'd been raised on it.' After predictable teenage anorexia, she went on to become a drug addict (now cured) who grew pot in her back garden and sold it to friends. She tried to become an actress but never made it - she reckons Mom and Pop pulled some strings to block her career. She ran around after rock stars and is very proud of having had an affair with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and a one-night stand with Kris Kristofferson, and she went on television a lot when Pop became President to talk about her 'political growth', which taught her that bombs were a bad thing. She's had therapy, of course, oodles of it, but she still, at 39, sounds like the most irritating sort of 14-year-old. Yet buried within this self-serving farrago there are several facts about the Reagans which seem to contradict her whinge about parental neglect. Even when she was in her twenties and thirties and had slagged them off publicly more often than anyone could count, they were always 'there for her' in a crisis, ready to forgive and forget.

Even if we discount all her accusations, we are still left with a pretty clear insight into Patti Davis's character. And this insight is so damning that the question then arises: how bad a parent do you have to be to produce a daughter like Patti? Quite awful, I'd say.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in