Many of us in Egypt are naturally captivated by the lives of the rich and famous. There is something about these characters that we find inherently exciting and mysterious. We wear thin the pages of celebrity gossip magazines and tirelessly search the Internet for updates on our favourite stars. Royalty from the days of yore are no exception to our obsession; the elegant ways in which we imagine these monarchs used to live is deeply entrancing. In Diaries of An Egyptian Princess, Nevine Abbas Halim sets out to fascinate her readers with tales of triumph and tribulation from her turbulent life before and after the 1952 revolution.

Unfortunately, the author’s writing fails to adequately captivate her audience. The jacket of the book promises to give insight into the princess’s early life as a beloved socialite and her later post-revolution troubles as a social outcast. Anxiously awaiting this cruel twist of fate and the details of Princess Nevine’s struggle, the reader is prepared to grant the heroine a fair deal of sympathy. It surely must have been difficult to go from riches to rags so suddenly and so drastically.

A substantial bit of the narrative, which skips carelessly to and fro through time, is devoted to listing the names of her high-society cohorts and their genetic or social relation to the Royal Family. While the author succeeds in making many of these people sound quite interesting, it is to her detriment. The story might have been more interesting coming from the perspective of one of Princess Nevine’s acquaintances.

The life of the author is not wholly dull. She comes across as a vivacious lady, willing to take chances and have fun with life. Taking advantage of the opportunities presented to her, Princess Nevine attends many events, seeks out education both in Egypt and the US and travels extensively.

However, the author makes it difficult to attract the reader’s sympathy over her frequently-jailed father (Abbas Halim was the founder of the Egyptian Labour Movement), or the fact that policemen no longer salute her when she drives by. Though she devotes a few pages to the Free Officer's Revolution, a much greater portion of the book concerns how difficult her life was just before, during and after this time. It is not easy to understand exactly why that is the case, as the tales of tribulation are frequently interspersed with stories of a grand party or her travels through Europe.

The final pages of the book claim to bring us to the close of the Golden Years, which are then followed by '...Supremely unwelcome difficult days.' The book would have been much more gripping had this event been introduced a third of the way into the story.

Though the book does drag a bit, a slew of incredible photographs of Princess Nevine, her friends and family are sprinkled throughout the pages. This helps to humanise the characters quite a bit, which are occasionally left rather underdeveloped in the text itself. Diaries of An Egyptian Princess would make for a lovely coffee-table book to flip through these images of the past. However, after reading the whole book, one is left feeling as though you had to be there to really appreciate this autobiography.