Star Wars fans are likely to have as curious and strained a relationship with Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist as the actress has with the films: a hope for something deeper, disappointment in its glibness, and ultimately a respect and grudging appreciation for the sincere emotion it represents. Fisher delves into the making of the original 1977 Star Wars, spurred in part by a collection of handwritten diaries she says she recently found from that time, but stops with the original—she doesn’t touch the sequels or The Force Awakens—and spends most of the book ruminating on an affair she says she had with her married and much older costar, Harrison Ford, who was then 33. At the time she was the insecure 19-year-old daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher who had stumbled into the family business of entertainment because she didn’t know what else she wanted. Forty years later, she still seems to be grappling with that feeling, embracing what Princess Leia has done for her career and celebrating the character’s inspiring place in the pantheon of female heroes while recoiling from Leia’s sex-symbol status as a pubescent touchstone (pun intended) for male fans.
The Princess Diarist reads like a YA novel featuring the leads of Star Wars as its main characters. First-person narrator Fisher is talented and clever but terminally self-conscious. She falls for Ford, the charismatic but emotionally distant bad boy of the school play, who doesn’t really care for her and has a way of making her feel conflicting things about herself. Leia is so shrewd, fearless, and forever young that she makes Fisher seem like her own shadow. There isn’t a lot of insight into the character or the creation of a movie that means so much to so many, but there’s tremendous insight into the volatile heart of a young woman, seen through the eyes of her wiser, older self still seeking her place in the universe.