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CarolynHarris 10-11-2012 11:16 PM

"Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses" - J Larson
 
An entertaining memoir of Jayne Amelia Larson's 5 weeks as a chauffeur to Saudi Princesses on a Beverly Hills shopping spree

Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur’s Tale of the World’s Richest Princesses by Jayne Amelia Larson (Review) | Carolyn Harris: Royal Historian

Warren 10-12-2012 11:17 AM

1 Attachment(s)
"Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses
(plus their servants, nannies, and one royal hairdresser)
"

by Jayne Amelia Larson


Publisher:
Free Press
Published: October 2012
ISBN: 9781451640014
ISBN-10: 1451640013
Pages: 224
Format: Hardcover

The Author
Jayne Amelia Larson is an actress and film producer. She has an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a graduate degree from Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre Institute. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Publisher's Blurb
After more than a decade of working in Hollywood, actress Jayne Amelia Larson found herself out of luck, out of work, and out of prospects. Without telling her friends or family, she took a job as a limousine driver, thinking that the work might be a good way to dig out of debt while meeting A-list celebrities and important movie moguls.

When she got hired to drive for the Saudi royal family vacationing in Beverly Hills, Larson thought she’d been handed the golden ticket. She’d heard stories of the Saudis giving $20,000 tips and Rolex watches to their drivers. But when the family arrived at LAX with millions of dollars in cash—money that they planned to spend over the next couple of weeks—Larson realized that she might be in for the ride of her life. With awestruck humor and deep compassion, she describes her eye-opening adventures as the only female in a detail of over forty assigned to drive a beautiful Saudi princess, her family, and their extensive entourage.

To be a good chauffeur means to be a “fly on the wall,” to never speak unless spoken to, to never ask questions, to allow people to forget that you are there. The nature of the employment—Larson was on call 24 hours a day and 7 days a week—and the fact that she was the only female driver gave her an up close and personal view of one of the most closely guarded monarchies in the world, a culture of great intrigue and contradiction, and of unimaginable wealth.

The Saudis traveled large: they brought furniture, Persian rugs, Limoges china, lustrous silver serving trays, and extraordinary coffees and teas from around the world. The family and their entourage stayed at several luxury hotels, occupying whole floors of each (the women housed separately from the Saudi men, whom Larson barely saw). Each day the royal women spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery and mega-shopping sprees on Rodeo Drive. Even the tea setup had its very own hotel room, while the servants were crammed together on rollaway beds in just a few small rooms down the hall.

Larson witnessed plenty of drama: hundreds of hours of cosmetic surgery recovery, the purchasing of Hermès Birkin bags of every color, roiling battles among the upper-echelon entourage members all jockeying for a better position in the palace hierarchy, and the total disregard that most of the royal entourage had for their exhausted staff. But Driving the Saudis also reveals how Larson grew to understand the complicated nuances of a society whose strict customs remain intact even across continents. She saw the intimate bond that connected the royals with their servants and nannies; she befriended the young North African servant girls, who supported whole families back home by working night and day for the royals but were not permitted to hold their own passports lest they try to flee.

While experiencing a life-changing “behind the veil” glimpse into Saudi culture, Larson ultimately discovers that we’re all very much the same everywhere—the forces that corrupt us, make us desperate, and make us human are surprisingly universal.

Publishers Weekly
"Larson earned her graduate degree at Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater Institute. For many years, she earned good reviews for a steady flow of New York City acting jobs. She then tried her luck in Los Angeles, but found herself out of work and money. Actor-friends told her limo-driving wasn’t bad, so she told herself, “after a few months, I would sell a script I’d been developing or land a great part in a film, and it would all be over.” After a couple of months on the job, big news: the imminent arrival of a Saudi royal family, known for glamorous excursions and large tips. In her chronicling of 50 days with Princess Zaahira and her entourage, Larson reveals herself to be an articulate, observant writer. She balances colorful tales of excess with musings on women’s roles, and accounts of bad behavior with considerations of the reasons behind it. There are lovely moments, too: she developed a bond with a nanny and a gaggle of servant-girls, and their kindness offers a counterpoint to Larson’s often disturbing realizations about money, power, and perspective. There’s plenty of fascinating insider info, too, about the job, her charges (Saudi and otherwise), and Los Angeles —altogether, an often thoroughly enjoyable read."

Powell's
Actress, producer, and occasional chauffeur Jayne Amelia Larson offers a funny and insightful memoir about the time she spent as a driver for members of the Saudi royal family visiting Beverly Hills, detailing her invitation inside one of the world’s most closely guarded monarchies.

When the Saudi royal family vacationed in Los Angeles, they hired Jayne Amelia Larson, an actress struggling to make ends meet, to be their personal chauffeur. She’d heard stories of the Saudis’ outrageously generous gratuities and figured that several weeks at their beck and call might be worth her time. But when the family arrived via their private jet with an entourage of forty and millions of dollars in cash, Jayne Amelia realized she might be getting into more than she bargained for.

For weeks, Larson observed the family’s opulent lifestyle: they occupied four luxury hotels, enjoyed day in and day out shopping binges, and servants catered 24/7 to Princess Zaahira and her entourage. From the thirteen-year-old princess who slapped down $100 dollar bills at a supermarket and didn’t bother to wait for her change to the nanny who ran away in the airport the moment she was handed her passport, the stories Larson shares are bizarre, poignant, and illustrative of the profound contradictions and complications that only such massive wealth can create.

Driving the Saudis, based on the author’s successful one-woman stage show, is a vivid portrait of the Saudi royals as few ever get to see them. As funny as it is insightful, this is a true-to-life fable for our times. But at its heart, it’s a story about the corruption that infinite wealth creates, and about what we all do for money.

Kirkus Reviews
The engaging memoir of a struggling Hollywood actress/producer's experiences working as the chauffeur for the women of the Saudi royal family.

Working as a professional limousine driver was the last thing Larson ever thought she would have to do. But with $40,000 in accumulated debts and no steady acting or producing jobs on the horizon, she had no choice. Just as she was "hitting rock bottom,” she was hired to drive the female members of the Saudi royal family and their entourage around Los Angeles. Larson knew that she would have to be "available 24/7, seven days a week, for perhaps as long as seven weeks straight.” She was to "be seen and not heard" and could never contradict the demands made of her, no matter how outrageous. She ferried female royals to and from plastic surgery offices and exclusive Rodeo Drive stores and readily solved such urgent problems as procuring every color she could find of a $500 Chantilly bra for a princess eager to show off her "new boobs.” At the same time, she also caught sometimes poignant glimpses into an adamantly traditional world that devalued women and restricted their freedom. Larson found unexpected allies in the teenage serving girls who waited on the princesses, virtual slaves without access to their own passports. No one, including the author herself, escapes Larson's witty scrutiny. The Saudi royals may have been blind to ordinary reality, but Larson, who "did it for the money,” was equally blind to the fact that to her employers, she was just a woman and a servant driving other women.

Sharp-eyed and humane.

v cover
reproduced for promotional purposes

Artemisia 10-12-2012 11:35 AM

This sounds like a very interesting and entertaining read.
I'll definitely add the book to my wish list.

COUNTESS 10-12-2012 08:48 PM

What a pity. You al miss the point. Saudi women cannot live like others and only those who (like princesses) in this corrupt and oppressive country can afford that allows these indignities. We should all be disgusted.

NGalitzine 10-12-2012 09:03 PM

Sigh, another person seeking $$ and 15 minutes of fame while violating other peoples privacy.

COUNTESS 10-12-2012 09:45 PM

Really, privacy?? If they were that private they wouldn't live their lives to excess. They would care how there fellow countrywomen lived theirs. How about the women who live denigrated lives, while these "princesses" live as they please. Same country. Oh, my, what will change in their lives, maybe it is a wakeup call??

NGalitzine 10-12-2012 10:51 PM

Surely you don't believe the "author" was being altruistic and writing to benefit the women of Saudi Arabia. She wrote it for a few $$ and some publicity hoping to boost her failed acting career. And yes, I do believe the privacy of her employers was violated.

COUNTESS 10-12-2012 11:05 PM

Yes, she wrote to earn money, of that there is no doubt. But, since, this country is such a vile place for women, whether or not it was her motive, she is helping get recognition for these abuses.

camelot23ca 10-13-2012 06:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by COUNTESS (Post 1471018)
Yes, she wrote to earn money, of that there is no doubt. But, since, this country is such a vile place for women, whether or not it was her motive, she is helping get recognition for these abuses.

That would really depend on the style of the book, though, wouldn't it? Does she focus on the fact that yes, like indulged pets, these women can have whatever shiny bauble catches their eye, but they're not afforded what we would consider the most basic of human rights? Or is the book just a Gossip Girl-esque style rundown of clothes, jewellery and "new boobs" that glamorizes their lifestyle?

COUNTESS 10-14-2012 04:36 PM

Most correct. If it just talks about petty nonsense, it is worthless.

Al_bina 10-14-2012 06:04 PM

Do Saudis in question care about Ms. Larson's scribbling? No. Will anything change any time soon? May be and may be not. It depends on an infinite number of factors.

Jacknch 10-14-2012 06:16 PM

Hardly the sort of book I'd have of my coffee table. Princesses having cosmetic surgery....how common!

Artemisia 10-14-2012 06:24 PM

:previous:

I'm actually planning to purchase the book. The world of Saudi royals, especially the female representatives of it, is somewhat of a mystery. All that is reported are extensive shopping sprees and perhaps some scandals. I'd be quite interested to know what day-to-day life of these women is like.], what they live for or aspire to, their parenting methods... It can't be all shopping!

Imanmajed 10-14-2012 06:57 PM

Jayne Amelia Larson was a temporary driver for Saudi royal household for a short time in the United States. That provides her with a unique insight. But I think these few weeks are good for a minimal insight only and can not tell the story of a lifetime. It also raises questions to: What extent vacation from normal life would differ??? Has she experienced both sides - the world of men and the world of women of the royal family? Or can she only catch a small fraction of the world of the women of the royal family?? Over and above that the book ignores the different perspectives that people have when they come from different cultures and social classes. I think that's a pity , thereby the book loses its uniqueness. For me it's not so important to write about the wealth of another. Much more interesting is to discover the people behind the wealth and to see them as that which reflects their (mostly) hidden characters. The prejudice-free detection and coherent processing of informations are an art, which few authors understand it to write. Also I would like to see more books, where it would be possible to mediate between the differing perspectives on life, or to give rise to this view even before.

AdmirerUS 10-14-2012 07:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Imanmajed (Post 1471658)
The book ignores the different perspectives that people have when they come from different cultures and social classes. I think that's a pity , thereby the book loses its uniqueness.

The book comes out here on the 16th. Have you read it already?

COUNTESS 10-14-2012 11:13 PM

Prespectives are always different from different cultures and social classes. Yet, you can still look at a subject in the 21st century and say they live by 2 different rules for themselves. One for inside their country and one outside. Many other women do not have that luxury, in their nation. When driving a car or being an independent human being, who may come and go at their own will, leaves us, women, uncomfortable, with a society that lives in the 12th century. It most amazes me that these comments come from men, whose autonomy is unresticted.

Imanmajed 10-15-2012 03:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AdmirerUS (Post 1471663)
The book comes out here on the 16th. Have you read it already?

I'm very early on with my review, I know. A five-week insight is small and can show a detail only, but never reflect the whole. Read the book and form your own opinion! What I wrote was related to my opinion on the book. :flowers:

Imanmajed 10-15-2012 03:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by COUNTESS (Post 1471690)
Prespectives are always different from different cultures and social classes. Yet, you can still look at a subject in the 21st century and say they live by 2 different rules for themselves. One for inside their country and one outside. Many other women do not have that luxury, in their nation. When driving a car or being an independent human being, who may come and go at their own will, leaves us, women, uncomfortable, with a society that lives in the 12th century. It most amazes me that these comments come from men, whose autonomy is unresticted.

Men can be very different in their views and in "the century of their thoughts" in which they live. :flowers:


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