Book Review The Prince & I
My Life with Prince Bira of Siam by Princess Ceril Birabongse
If you share my passion for Pre War motor racing, when manufactures the likes of ERA, Delage and Bugatti were common place on Europe’s circuits, piloted by legends such as Nuvolari, Seaman and Ascari, then this book is the perfect read. It must therefore be a motor racing book? Well no, it is a superbly written insight into life in and around the world of early GP and TT races, by the wife of one driver who was the most unlikely race driver but took on the best; often beating them. First published in 1992 as a paperback, the E book version became available twenty years later courtesy of Veloce and includes over 100 images.
Being slightly ‘old school’ it has taken me time to become accustomed to the E Book but it has one bonus; being able to offer a quality and fascinating read for less than a packet of cigarettes. Bira spent most of his younger life in the UK, brought up by his elder cousin Chula after his parents died. Originally from Siam (modern day Thailand) his education took place in Southern England where at the age of twenty he befriended the author; the lady destined to become his wife. Meticulous records of every car, events and victories were kept by Ceril Birabongse and the story is told through her eyes. The distances covered by race drivers through the 20s and 30s were incredible; racing through the streets in Italy one weekend then over to the Isle of Man or Ulster the following. With little understanding of all things financial, it seems Bira just grabbed life by the horns and did what took his fancy; minus any arrogance, the life he led was all he knew.
This book offers an insider’s view into motorsports golden age; races were long and exceptionally dangerous with death and injury commonplace. Naturally gifted B Bira competed with the era’s best this was the more impressive minus any factory backing in the pre-war years. Turn up, race and then move on to the next event which meant being away for months at a time leaving a worried young wife with at home. Correspondence letters, race reports from across Europe and beyond re tell the triumphs and failures, mostly the latter but in the UK success came frequently. The Prince lived a ‘Boys Own’ adventure becoming a renowned pilot and Olympic sailor, as well as the only Thai driver ever to compete in Formula 1 where he piloted marques such as Maserati, Gordini and Connaught until the mid-50s. The Prince and I, an excellent read, written with wit and honesty; a life story with motor sport, this book is not just for the vintage ‘petrol head’.
Base price £7.49
Veloce Publishing Ltd
Veloce House, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way,
Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR