Driving the Saudis ~ Jayne Amelia Larson
The drivers were sent to pick up the family and the entourage in the middle of the night. No one was there. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was hushed, practically shut down. I’d been there dozens of times before, but I’d never seen it like that; it was spooky. Even the light seemed different, as if all the exterior fixtures had been gelled and dimmed to create an ominous orange haze.
The story opens with a chapter titled “The $100 Million Pickup” and a lone female driver getting all kinds of nervous on the first day of her exclusive gig as the chauffeur of one of the world’s richest princesses. When the royal family members (plus their security team, servants, nannies, and one royal hairdresser) finally make their way to the cars, Jayne soon learns that the lucrative job she was promised is a lot more complicated than she initially imagined, when she naively and gratefully signed up for it.
Driving the Saudis is Larson’s autobiographical recount of the seven weeks she spent in the inner sanctum of a Saudi royal family during its visit in Los Angeles. Larson — a stage and film actress supporting herself as a private driver until her big showbiz break — is the only female in the large team of private chauffeurs, a position that makes for a peculiar dichotomy of advantage and drawback, and an unparalleled vantage point. Driving them around during what amounts to be their almost single-minded, long shopping spree, she witnesses firsthand the class segregation and the desperate though largely resigned cultural plight of the princesses and their entourage. The grueling demands of her employment are somewhat tempered by Jayne’s realization that emotions, hopes and dreams are universal and transcend cultural boundaries and class divisions.
This is one well-written book, a well-executed first-person narrative that doesn’t beat around the bush. Harsh realities are presented with the same immodesty as the banal ones. There are very few people who serve royal families then break the ranks and write about their insight. The unique perspective of this particular insider, candidly describing titillating details about which most of us are curious, is salacious and sobering at the same time. A whole room rented for almost two months at the swanky Beverly Hills Hotel, set up as to house only the royal tea set? We’re talking about china here folks, not the tea servers and their gear, just the tea china! I must confess that I read the whole book in one riveted sitting because I couldn’t wait to read the ending and it did not disappoint.
A hardcover copy of Driving the Saudis will be given away in a random drawing - the winner will be announced next Thursday.
Answer the discussion question and/or submit your info to enter the drawing.
The winner of Rick Veal’s The Master of Whitehall is…
This giveaway is now closed, you’re welcome to continue participating in the discussion
Storytime for 2/14: The Magic Council by Victoria Grefer
For an up-to-date calendar of scheduled books, please see Storytime Thursday.
Same time next week?
Meanwhile, here’s a topic: discuss!
Can you think of a situation where being a woman would be a blessing and a curse at the same time? Is that insight from a personal experience?