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Book Review

Simmons’ novel immortalises Diana Princess of Wales

Diana: The Last Word by Simone Simmons. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG
Diana: The Last Word by Simone Simmons. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

Book title: Diana: The Last Word
Author: Simone Simmons with Ingrid Seward
Year of publication: 2004
Reviewer: Diana Ngila

Lady Di, the late Princes of Wales, would have been a grandmother to a baby boy born this past week. Her son William begot a boy, his third, through his wife Kate Middleton.

The British royal welcomed the new member of the family at the same hospital the late princess birthed her two sons, Lindo Wing of The St Mary’s Hospital.

The book, Diana: The Last Word by Simone Simmons, written in 2004 and published by St Martin’s Press, charts the life of Prince William’s mother, Diana Spencer, in the last five years of her life.

From charity work to her taste in men and the behind the scenes intrigues of the British royal family, Simonns writes from the perspective of an outsider looking into the life of the princess that the paparazzi couldn’t get enough of.

Written with the help of Ingrid Seward, a journalist with more than two decades of experience on the royal family, the book is layered with stories and tidbits of a woman besotted by the British public, filling in the blanks and perhaps helping them understand who she really was away from the glare of the media.

Diana: The Last Word reads like a controversy but becomes easier as the pages wear on. The 18 chapters have titles like JFK, Fatal Attraction, Looking Good and The Last Summer, to mention but a few.

The book suggests that the late princess, who had “a fling” with John Kennedy Jr, had a compartmentalised life with an addiction to sleeping pills, a cheeky streak, beside her save-the-world preoccupation, and was insecure about her body.

Surprisingly, these observations are made by Simone through her interactions with Diana at her Kensington Palace flat, and phone conversations, and backed by TV and newspaper reports.

While the book doesn’t speak at great length of the relationship between Dodi al-Fayed and Diana as expected — given he perished with her and their driver following a car crash in Paris in the summer of 1997 — it does connect the relationship between Dodi’s father Mohamed, who, very much loved the Princess of Wales, as well as his brother-in-law Adnan Khashoggi, the billionaire arms dealer.

Simmons writes like one who lost her dearest friend before she was ready to, and other times as if the two were strangers — underscoring the complexities of Diana’s personality. There is no mention of a police report released in 1999, which initially blamed reckless driving and the paparazzi for the crash.

However, Simonns does speak of a document that she burned following the princess’ death. Twenty years after the Princess of Wales died, Diana: The Last Word leaves many questions unanswered.

Perhaps the royal archives, if ever declassified, will be the best bet for understanding who the “queen of hearts and minds” — as she had stated in the Panorama interview — really was.

Until then, Sir Elton John’s song Candle in the Wind, which he performed at her funeral, will be the soundtrack many remember Diana by.

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