Meghan Markle's teacher remembers her as "one of the top-five outstanding students in my career". When Markle writes on her blog: "My hair is primped, my face is painted, my name is recognised, my star meter is rising, my life is changing," she is still years away from meeting Prince Harry but has already bagged a hit television series and is on her way to founding a lifestyle site, launching herself as an international humanitarian and delivering a speech to the United Nations that gets a standing ovation from Ban Ki-moon.
That blog was anonymous, written under the title Working Actress, but is one of the invaluable sources Andrew Morton has plundered for this biography. Morton made his name with his 1992 book on Diana, Princess of Wales, an unrivalled coup based on tapes secretly recorded by Diana. There is no such access here, but times have moved on: Markle's thoughts on everything from Donald Trump (bad) to holistic plant-based food delivery services (good) are available online, whether via television appearances, her Instagram feed or her (now defunct) website, The Tig, a guide to living your best Californian life.
We learn Markle named The Tig after her favourite wine, Tignanello. She loves the Amalfi Coast, meditation and dressing her dogs in jumpers. She "never leaves home" unless she has green juice and chia seed pudding in the fridge. A reference to "filthy, sexy mush" - surely the Meghan Markle biography we want to read - turns out to be a description of boiled courgettes.
Morton doesn't unpick this carefully curated version of Markle's life; he weaves it into a highly readable book that could come straight from the shelf marked "uplifting fiction": a spirited heroine who overcomes life's obstacles and conquers the world. Imagine Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Woman of Substance crossed with Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop.
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My favourite description is of Markle flying to London for her first date with Prince Harry: "As Meghan Markle nestled back in her seat in preparation for landing at Heathrow Airport, she had love and marriage on her mind. The actor was returning from a long weekend on the Greek island of Hydra, once home to the lugubrious poet and singer Leonard Cohen. It had been several days of wine, red mullet, hummus and incredible yoga moves..."
The index is stuffed with famous names - the Bs alone give us Beyonce, Warren Beatty, Richard Burton, Russell Brand, Bono and Darcey Bussell. Humphrey Yogart, though, is not an old flame but a frozen yoghurt shop where teenage Meghan had a Saturday job.
This sprinkling of celebrity is unnecessary because Markle has sufficient star quality to hold our attention. Morton has spoken to people from her past - by happy coincidence he has a home in Pasadena, Markle's hometown - and the first half of the book traces our heroine's determined rise. After a detailed family history, including the strained relationships that come with divorced parents and half-siblings, the revelation that Markle is descended from Robert the Bruce, and several hundred mentions of the fact she is "bi-racial", we see that her passion for good works and good publicity was forged early. She makes the national news aged 11 by writing to Proctor & Gamble to complain about their sexist advert for dishwasher detergent, cc'ing Hillary Clinton; cleans tables in the Hippie Kitchen homeless shelter at 16; is crowned homecoming queen and wins awards for "intellectual, artistic and charitable work" in her last year at high school. Her stated aim, according to a friend, is to be "Diana 2.0".
There is a touch of the Becky Sharp as she sets about finding fame, parking her car at the back of the lot when she attends auditions so nobody can see her climbing in and out the boot - she couldn't afford a new key fob. Winning her first film role in an Ashton Kutcher romcom, she negotiates her screen time from one line to five. There are years of bit-parts, pilots that never get made into series and a stint as a "briefcase girl" on Deal or No Deal.
Finally, she lands her big break, as Rachel Zane in the US legal drama Suits. Up to this point, the prose reads like fan fiction. Now, briefly, we get something more interesting, when her first marriage to Trevor Engelson is on the skids. "Meghan, a self-confessed perfectionist who was as fastidious as she was controlling", dumps him and sends back her wedding ring by registered mail. A "networker to her fingertips", she cuts off old friends once the Suits job elevates her to higher circles - "the Meghan chill".
But with no sources willing to dish real dirt, this idea of Markle as a ruthless social climber is not pursued. Instead, we move on to Prince Harry. Morton knows as much as any other royal watcher about the intimacies of Harry and Meghan's romance - nothing - so relies on biographer's intuition. "She understood him as a man, not a title," he writes of the couple's instant chemistry, then unleashes his inner Attenborough when the couple go on safari and are "lulled to sleep by the chirping of the yellow-throated sand grouse and the melancholy call of zebra at the water's edge".
The overall impression is of a bright, caring, driven young woman who deserves everything she has. Nothing happens to her by accident; it's the result of hard graft. The journey from soup kitchen volunteer to Kensington Palace might seem like a fairy tale, but fairy tales end when the beautiful girl marries her prince. Here, the small matter of a royal wedding is just the mid-point. Markle is the author of her own story, and she's not done yet.