Princess Diana still intrigues us 14 years after her fatal car crash in Paris, but what if she faked her death to live incognito in America? Monica Ali (author of the award-winning Brick Lane) posits this idea in Untold Story, which presents a Fringe-like alternate reality version of the Princess of Wales and her escape from the paparazzi glare. With the help of her faithful secretary, Lawrence, the princess has plastic surgery, moves to middle-America and becomes Lydia. She lives quietly in a gated community, hangs out with her girlfriends, worries about getting too involved with a lover, and volunteers at an animal shelter. But she's haunted by the realization that she'll never see her children again and that Lawrence, her last link to her old life, is dying of cancer. Then, one of the photographers that relentlessly stalked the princess sees a photo of Lydia and begins to suspect the most famous woman in the world might not be dead after all.
Untold Story requires a giant suspension of disbelief, but Ali's writing and the narration by noted English actors Emma Fielding and Nicholas Farrell help immensely. Fielding's regal voice is perfect for Lydia's inner dialogue, but her American accent is flat, which means Lydia's gal pals all sound the same – a bit nasally and unintentionally stoned. She can't quite lose her British accent. Farrell's reading of Lawrence is the real standout here. His affection and concern for the princess comes through in every rise and fall of Farrell's classically trained voice. While he's facing his own mortality, his thoughts continually wander back to Lydia, and his recollections of helping her escape to her new life are absolutely riveting.
Once the photographer, John "Grabber" Grabowski, figures out who Lydia is, the novel turns quasi-chase thriller, but it's Lydia's letters to Lawrence and his diary entries about how he helped the princess become Lydia that are the heart of this novel. Fielding's melancholy voice as Lydia writes to Lawrence, agonizing over her decision to disappear, are quite moving. Monica Ali has created a novel that is impossible to categorize – it's by turns a mystery, thriller, fantasy, and improbable revisionist history. For a few hours, Ali, through Fielding and Farrell, will have you convinced that the impossible is possible and that the Princess of Wales is still among us. Collin Kelley
When Princess Diana died in Paris's Alma tunnel, she was 37 years old. Had she lived, she would turn 50 on July 1, 2011. Who would the beloved icon be if she were alive today? What would she be doing? And where? One of the most versatile and bold writers of our time, Monica Ali has imagined a different fate for Diana in her spectacular new novel, Untold Story.
Diana's life and marriage were both fairytale and nightmare rolled into one. Adored by millions, she suffered rejection, heartbreak, and betrayal. Surrounded by glamour and glitz and the constant attention of the press, she fought to carve a meaningful role for herself in helping the needy and dispossessed. The contradictions and pressures of her situation fueled her increasingly reckless behavior, but her stature and her connection with her public never ceased to grow. If Diana had lived, would she ever have found peace and happiness, or would the curse of fame always have been too great?
Fast forward a decade after the (averted) Paris tragedy, and an Englishwoman named Lydia is living in a small, nondescript town somewhere in the American Midwest. She has a circle of friends: one owns a dress shop; one is a Realtor; another is a frenzied stay-at-home mom. Lydia volunteers at an animal shelter, and swims a lot. Her lover, who adores her, feels she won't let him know her. Who is she?
Untold Story is about the cost of celebrity, the meaning of identity, and the possibility - or impossibility - of reinventing a life. Ali's fictional princess is beautiful, intrepid, and resourceful, and has established a fragile peace. And then the past threatens to destroy her new life. Ali has created a riveting novel inspired by the cultural icon she calls "a gorgeous bundle of trouble."
©2011 Monica Ali (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
“Haunting and intensely readable, this is something between a thriller and a ghost story.” (Lady Antonia Fraser)
“A masterpiece of suspense…. This is a startlingly intelligent, perceptive and entertaining piece of fiction. It's quite brilliant.” (Daily Mirror (UK))
"Thoughtful, compassionate…. A suspenseful and gripping read.” (Financial Times)
Monica Ali begins with a fascinating premise: that the Princess of Wales, with the help of a devoted aide, planned her own demise/disappearance, underwent plastic surgery in Brazil, assumed the identity of a British-American crib death victim, and went on to live a life of obscurity in the USA, working in an animal rescue facility. By coincidence, a photographer who spent years pursuing her comes to town . . .
While Untold Story isn't a total failure, it's less than I expected from Ali. For those still entranced by Diana and her sad story, Lydia's letters to Lawrence expressing her fears, joys, and regrets bring it all back. But too often I felt as if I was in the midst of a chick lit story populated by clich??ed characters carrying on clich??d conversations. In other words, both the story and the characters lacked complexity. If you're a Diana fan, give this book a try; but if you're hoping for something as fine as Brick Lane, skip it.
As to the readers, Nicholas Farrell is wonderful. Emma Fielding is good enough as Lydia, but her American accents get quite irritating after awhile.
I enjoy listening to audio books because they entertain me while doing other mundane life's chores!!! I am taken to other places and have an eclectic taste!
What do any of us really know about celebrities?...they are just people, too, after all. This book was great as it gave me a sense of how horrible the photojournalists are to the rich and famous. I am glad I am just an average joe blow....Intriguing story and not once will you ever hear an exact reference to the person this book is about....clever story, I thought!!
found the idea interesting so story flowed easily. a "what if..." fairytale. Makes you really appreciate how restricting royals daily life truly is.
lydia. you could feel her internal struggle
I really, really wanted to love this book. I was so excited about it. I purchased it rather than wait for my next credits to become available because I was going on vacation. I thought it would make great airplane/leisurely listening time. It was all just OK. The other characters, the American friends, are as someone else said "cliched". The narrators are OK. Not the best, not the worst. I think it ended in a way that another book is possible. Maybe that one will be a bit more..... lively....is that the word I'm looking for? Did I mention it is just OK?
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I had a bit of a crisis of conscience regarding this book - I couldn’t help but feel that it was a somewhat disrespectful (yet comical) premise: Princess Diana fakes her own death, gets plastic surgery and settles down in the United States. I know its fiction and that no disrespect is intended, but I still felt weird about it.
Curiosity and a 5$ coupon pushed me over the edge and I caved – but quite frankly it was not worth it. I’m not sure what I was expecting really, but it was not that interesting.
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