Book Review: Princesses Behaving Badly

Title: Princesses Behaving Badly

Author: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Setting: worldwide, across history, across time

If you’re thinking Disney has the scoop on princesses, you are so far wrong. Real princesses are fierce, ruthless, vain, spendthrift, ambitious, violent, mystical, proud, and occasionally, mentally ill. Not really all at once, but as a whole, they are about as far from the sweet virginal doll as it’s possible to get.

This is a book club read and it’s going to be  a fun discussion next month. McRobbie sorts the women out by type – heroes, warriors, madwomen, etc. Some of these stories were totally shocking. And some were already familiar to me. I knew quite a bit about Hatshepsut, who started as a princess right enough but wound up as a pharaoh in her own right.

But others were entirely new to me. Princess Olga of Kiev was absolutely dedicated to the cause of revenge. When her husband was murdered, she embarked on a terrific campaign of getting her own back against the country responsible. When she was through, hundreds of men were dead and she was a national hero.

This was an extra treat since the author picked such a wide range of princesses. Instead of the usual choice of white Europeans, she went world wide – African, Asian, all over. She also makes an effort to tell the whole story, not the traditionally accepted Eurocentric story. The book is organized generally by the accepted story first, then the real story after. Some of the stories are quite short, but others are really long.

As far as the “mad” princesses go, it was enlightening to see the way women with mental illness were treated throughout history. Some of them clearly  needed restraint or something, but it was sad to think that so many of them could have been helped with modern treatment. One princess with an eating disorder and a distorted body image seemed especially sad to me.

Some of the stories were a little racy, many were violent, and some were seriously messed up, so I wouldn’t recommend this one for kids, but teens would get a kick out of it. Nothing deep, but a good introduction to the real stories behind this figures. There are also suggestions for further reading.

Update on Women’s History Challenge

I have not done very well with this challenge. For one thing, I can’t find many women’s history books that really sound interesting. And for another, one of the ones I was looking forward to, turned out to be a dud. I finally finished a YA book that I’m going to count, Ashes by Laurie Halse Andersen. (review to come)

Basically I’ve been busy reading other stuff. But I do have Kepler’s Witch and Passionate Minds to read as well and the month’s not over yet! What are you reading?

What are you reading?

This month is Women’s History Month, so I headed to my library to pick up a few books. Here’s my haul:

Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, Seeds of America #3

Daughters of God by Russell M. Ballard

7 Women by Eric Metaxas

Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind by Loung Ung

Kepler’s Witch by James A. Connor

The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney


And I’m currently reading:

Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke


Do any of those look good to you? What are you reading?