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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review: Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur's Tale of the World's Richest Princesses by Jayne Amelia Larson

Book Jacket:

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.

My Thoughts:

When the author (an actress, producer, and voiceover artist) finds herself plummeted into a debt that reached close to 40,000 she needed a fast way to make some quick bucks! She wasn’t bringing in any doing what she did for a living- acting or producing, so another form of income had to be found.

Driving a limousine doesn’t require a specialized license to do- she went for it. She thought it was going to be OH so easy. Driving rich people to and from planes to their homes or work. Back and forth. No issues at all. She soon finds herself hired to drive the female members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family and their entourage.

In this book you will quickly find out how the Saudi’s end up being customers that NO sane driver would have fun driving. They are rich, they are spoiled, they drop thousands and thousands just on handbags each day. They are demanding, mean, and get tons of plastic surgery.

Each servant, nanny, or stylist that work for them have to be at attention 24/7. There is basically absolutely no resting period where they can let down their guards and feel comfortable. They are constantly reminded of their inadequate money means when they are surrounded by people who carry millions of dollar IN CASH with them for trips.

Because she was a FEMALE driver, she was to be “seen” and not “heard”. She wasn’t able to talk to or make eye contact with anybody unless she was spoken to. She was NEVER to ask or question any quest that she was given- no matter how weird it seemed.

She did everything asked of her, as eager as she could do it. She didn’t really meet the standards of staying perky while working 16+ hours a day, but she tried as best as she could. She managed to find more than 18+ $500 Chantilly bras for the princess who wanted to show off her new boob job, and was brushed off like a piece of cracker remaining after a meal.

She drove the male hairstylist to and from gambling places at all hours of the nights. She would sit in the car the entire time- while he whiled away his time having fun. She soon came up with an escape tactic that she KNEW would fit the bill. She invented a husband that was at home waiting for her, so that she wouldn’t have to stay out late driving this in-humane man who chain smoked and wouldn’t even let her crack her window.

further into the chauffeur detail, she ends up driving a younger princess. She becomes close to the princesses nanny and even the princess herself. When she gets a glimpse at how devalued the Saudi women are, how their opinions are NEVER taken, they are never to wear anything but full headdress outside of the home. She soon begins to find out WHY they go buck wild when they aren’t in their home countries.

I couldn’t put the book down. It is a must-read. It gives us “normals” a look into the life of very VERY rich princesses of a world that isn’t familiar to us. In most ways it’s like reading People magazine or something like it. It’s a sneak peak into a world we will never know, but yet find it fascinating at the same time.

This book is available on Amazon, and you don’t want to miss it!

 

Disclosure: This isn’t a sponsored post, products were sent for review purposes only. The opinions in this post are completely honest and not influenced in any way.

Jessica Renee



author

This post was written by:

Jessica is the writer behind Sweet Southern Mama. She is the mother of 2 adorable kids- Aidan, 7 and Adisyn, 5. She lives in Kentucky with her fiance and kids. She loves designing blogs, reading, writing, crafting, all things electronic, photography, and spending time with her family.

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