Untold Story is quite unlike anything I have ever reviewed here. It takes a real character, Princess Di, who tragically died in a Paris tunnel car crash many years ago and manufactures a fictional future for her, had she lived. The main character in Untold Story is Lydia, a single woman living in a small town somewhat called Kensington anonymously and working at a shelter for animals. She is in a relationship with a man and seems reluctant to get too close to him. She has several girlfriends. As the story begins, her friends are all waiting for her to show up to a party and she is late for an unknown reason. The foreshadowing wasn't something I really picked up on with the first read of this book, but on a second pass through the manuscript it is evident. Chapter Two jumps back to a month before the party when life was normal for Lydia. She enjoys a quiet life with her dog and her friends. Occasionally she tortures herself with a peek at the gossip magazines seeking glimpses of her children, or her former life. In a side plot there is a photographer writing a book on occasion of the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana's death. He is travelling and pulling the book together much too slow for his publisher's desire and here the two plots will collide. Lydia is very skilled at lying to friends and giving them tiny snippets of truth to keep them from questioning her background or to keep them at a distance. Eventually she begins to have the feeling she might be being followed. It is a not unfamiliar feeling for her. When, after many years succeeding in having faked her death, she is found by a photographer, she must make a difficult choice: confront the man or run. Monica Ali is a truly creative author and this is a fantastic and compelling read. Ali takes as the premise the idea that Princess Di was "a gorgeous bundle of trouble" and she supports this with a character who exists in the book as the accomplice who helped Diana to stage her death. Through him we see how trapped she felt towards the last years of her marriage to Prince Charles. He is painted as cruel and controlling. We see also that this fictional Diana's children were being pulled from her already as she headed towards the inevitability of a divorce. So, Ali, seems to hint it might not have been such a leap for a woman like Diana to have faked her death. It would have been the only way to gain freedom. Ali is the author of two other novels, In the Kitchen and Brick Lane. She lives in the other London with her husband and two children. She was named one of Granta's twenty best young British novelists.
Untold Story by Monica Ali, is to be released in hardcover June 28, 2011, by Scribner Hardcover (Simon and Schuster Canada) Fiction, 272 pages, $25.00
This one is a $$$$ out of $$$$$. Fun and unconventional twist on a topic many of us thought we already knew.
I received a copy of this book to review for free and a chat will be occurring on line about the book through Wanda @YMCBookalicious and YummyMummyClub