PRINCESS DAISY by Judith Krantz
Kirkus Star


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The obvious first question: is there anything about this novel to explain the astronomical sums that have been paid for it? Answer: not even close. Well, then, is it at least a good, juicy, junk-read? Answer: so-so, no better or worse than Scruples (1978), with some crude but effective soap-operatics at the start that soon slide into chaotic, glittery servings of romance, sex, and the advertising biz. The story proper begins with the whirlwind romance of 1950s filmstar Francesca Vernon (whose brief career implausibly seems to consist of classics only: Hamlet, Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights) and Russian-blooded, Swissbred Prince Stash Valensky--a polo-playing, plane-flying womanizer (his flashback seduction by an older woman at age 14 is the book's sexiest sequence) with ""the hands of a great male animal."" They meet in Deauville, it's Technicolor at first sight, their first date is lust on horse blankets at his stable, and--zap--they're married and Francesca's pregnant. But it's a grueling, traumatic, premature childbirth--twin girls, one perfect (Daisy), one brain-damaged (Danielle)--and when fastidious Stash tries to fob off the retarded babe, lioness Francesca grabs both tots and flees to California, along with a loyal Russian nanny and some FabergÉ baubles. When Francesca soon dies in a car wreck, however, little Daisy lives luxuriously with Stash (and older half-brother Ram) in London while beloved sis Dani goes into an institution. And when Stash dies in a plane wreck, gorgeous teen Daisy is rape/seduced by hateful Ram (who now controls the family fortune)--and escapes to college in Santa Cruz, where her theater design work leads (via a corny sequence reminiscent of a Judy Garland/ Mickey Rooney musical) to a job in N.Y. with TV-commercial maker F. G. North. So the second, far weaker, half of the novel covers Daisy in the 1970s: her chic Soho lifestyle with rich roommate Kiki; her romances with North and with selfmade tycoon Shannon (who teaches her that ""farting's a part of life""); her hobnobbing with the horsey/yachty set (which is, extraneously, into lesbianism); her continued loathing for obsessed Ram; and, finally, her reluctant agreement to become the model/image for Shannon's new perfume ad-campaign--she needs the dough ($1 million) to take care of both Dani and Stash's old, ill mistress. True, Krantz makes a half-hearted attempt at using retarded Dani to add suspense and sympathy, but this only ends up seeming terribly cheap and totally unconvincing. And, if possible, Krantz' prose seems to have gotten even worse, with hilarious, syntactical monstrosities. So the ultimate appeal here, as in Scruples, has nothing to do with character or storytelling but rather with descriptions of: high-priced food, trendy outfits (big scenes of deciding what to wear), assorted orgasms, and the ad/P-R world (People magazine, etc.). As such--a half-breezy, half-doltish, big, fat, messy success.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0553256092
Publisher: Crown