30 October 2018

TCJ Book Club Discussion: Craig Brown's MA'AM DARLING

(Image by The Court Jeweller; do not reproduce)

It's that time again, magpies: we're discussing our September/October selection for The Court Jeweller Book Club! I'm very excited to hear your thoughts on the latest biography of Princess Margaret, Craig Brown's Ma'am Darling.

Princess Margaret at Buckingham Palace, 1947 (Getty Images)

The American edition of Brown's book is simply titled Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, a title that does capture the unique structure of the biography. The book tells the story of Margaret's life in a collection of snippets, presented in a roughly chronological manner. These include everything from a transcript of her Desert Island Discs appearance to tales of her romances and marriage.

Lauren Bacall and Princess Margaret at the Royal European Preview of Applause, November 1972 (Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Most of these glimpses, though, are just that: images of Margaret constructed through the eyes of the people who encountered her, both famous and infamous. Peter Townsend, Tony Snowdon, Marion Crawford, Peter Sellers, Cecil Beaton, the Beatles, Colin Tennant, Elizabeth Taylor and more populate the pages of the book. The glimpses often feel voyeuristic, and sometimes downright intrusive, and then Brown complicates the issue even more by tossing in the occasional imagined, fictional "glimpse" into a life that Margaret might have had. Ultimately, the book is as inquisitive about the project of royal biography as it is about the life of its subject, and that makes it a fascinating (and occasionally maddening) read. We think we know the royals so well, and yet...

(Image by The Court Jeweller; do not reproduce)

Brown's book is such an inventive, unusual royal biography that I'm not even going to try to provide you with book club-style questions for discussion -- I just want to hear your thoughts! Let us know what you liked (or didn't like) about Ma'am Darling in the comment section below. (Remember that you might want to leave separate comments on separate topics, as our spam filter gets cranky about super-long comments!)

Our discussion of the book continues below in the comments! Stay tuned later this morning for the big reveal of our next selection for The Court Jeweller Book Club!