Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Driving the Saudis by Jayne Amelia Larson

Title: Driving the Saudis
Author: Jayne Amelia Larson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Free Press
Publish Date: October 16, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "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."

My Two Cents:

Like a lot of people in L.A., Jayne wants to become an actress. We all know this isn't easy and so she is forced to take on another job. She becomes a chauffeur. One day, she's charged with becoming one of the chaffeurs for the Saudi royal family when they come to visit. This is a memoir about a single event in the author's life. It is fascinating from the aspect that the Saudi royal family is huge and secretive and therefore not a lot of people do not know a whole lot about the family.

I thought this book was interesting from the perspective of culture and cultural relations. The United States relations with Saudi Arabia have been fraught with both periods of friendship and complications. I enjoyed reading about the Saudi people. At times, I kind of felt like the narrator was almost looking down on the Saudis. I think that's an easy trap to fall into when dealing with a culture that you are not familiar with, which the author definitely was not familiar with the culture before this job. Sometimes you have to make an effort to understand instead of trying to overstand. This just rubbed me the wrong way in this book.

I enjoyed reading about some of the things that the author had to do in order to make sure that the Saudi royal family was kept happy and content. One of the things that was most apparent was that aside from spending loads and loads of money, a lot of the members of the royal family seemed just like people that you may come across in your life. There were bossy teenagers and teenagers that just wanted to fit in. There were absent parents and caring parents. When you look it it that way, we are all way closer to each other than you think.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Some parts were not my cup of tea but other parts were definitely a little funny.



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