Untold Story
Monica Ali
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Buy *Untold Story* by Monica Ali online

Untold Story
Monica Ali
272 pages
June 2011
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The presumed death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in the waters off the coast of Brazil is the stimulus for Ali’s suspenseful tale, the race to uncover her new identity in quaint Kensington, Texas, coinciding with the ten-year anniversary of what we think is her death. The devastated world watched and grieved, but the princess (helped by her friend Lawrence Standing) now lives as Lydia Snaresbrook in her one-and-a-half story bungalow, spending quiet days working at a canine sanctuary.

Combining Laurence’s memoirs as he lies dying of cancer with photojournalist John Grabowski, who voraciously pursues Diana to the last, and Diana’s own crippling insecurities, Ali paints images of a most extraordinary woman, torn by the strictures of royalty, of motherhood, and of overbearing fame.

Fearing how far she might go if she doesn’t extricate herself from that life of fame and volatile, bizarre behavior, Laurence fears for her sanity. Seeing what desperate remedy might be required - and ever the diligent researcher and meticulous planner - Laurence devises a plan. Diana must fake her own death, then spend two months living in an unremarkable Rio suburb where she will get the surgery: a new nose and lips, along with dyed black hair.

The closing chapter of Diana's life, though shocking, takes on an air of inevitability. As the curtain falls, “the soap opera is axed,” and so starts the rest of Diana’s life as Lydia - that is, until Grabowski sneaks into Kensington and back into her existence. Despite the dark hair and the surgeon's knife, Grabowski sees in the photos of her irises a ghost that he thought had long been consigned to the past. As he realizes that he may have the scoop of the century, the witch-hunt begins, albeit with a far different modus operandi than from a decade before.

The novel’s charm - and by extension that of Lydia’s journey - is her ability to outmaneuver the ruthless Grabowski, whose book is to be released on the 10th anniversary of the princess’s death and will contain never-before-seen images. While Lydia falls for Carson, a lonely local claims adjuster, Grabowski ponders his magnum opus, his legacy and his "only begotten child." Ali ratchets up the tension and mystery, combining past with present as Laurence’s obituary from 1998 unfolds.

From Diana’s life in Kensington Palace's empty rooms to her hysterical pleadings over the love her life, through Laurence’s final writings, Ali re-creates the time when a princess was locked in a fairy-tale tower and betrayed by a cold and unfriendly prince. Even amid duty and destiny, bulimia, and the tabloid furor of her numerous scandals, the “People’s Princess” was still able to dazzle and shine in a world where darkness was often so all-encompassing.

Capturing Diana's essence in Lydia's voice, Ali cleverly explores the burdens of secrecy and responsibility that Diana has carried over the decade. Tied to an edge-of-your-seat thriller, a game of chance becomes a fight between hunter and the hunted as Lydia resorts to doing whatever she can to thwart Grabowski’s rabid bid to uncover her true identity.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2011

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