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Untold Story (2011)

The day that Princess Diana died, I was sitting in an empty Sunday morning newsroom filling in for the foreign editor. The news wires were humming because Diana and her boyfriend had been hurt in a car crash in Paris. But when the alert announcing her death flashed on my screen, my first reaction was disbelief - did I really just read that the most famous woman of my generation had died? As the shocking news filtered out, and the newsroom started filling with people, never once did I consider the death might have been a con. But that's the premise behind Monica Ali's story - what if Princess Diana faked her death to escape the limelight? Lydia, as she is known now, is living in a small American town fittingly called Kensington. The story opens with Lydia missing the birthday party thrown for her by her new friends - and then backtracks to explain how the princess went missing, presumed dead, 10 years ago (it wasn't in a Paris car crash); who helped her escape and how she transformed her appearance. Then John, a British photographer travelling through the US, spots a woman with a pair of eyes he'd never forgot. Could it possibly be her - and what will Lydia do to ensure her secret isn't exposed? Although Ali has said her princess is "fictional", the similarities are all there - how much her sons mean to her, how much she loathed the Establishment, her instability, manipulations and self-absorption, her role as the Queen of Hearts, her flirtations with other men. Those expecting another literary novel from Ali or an insightful book into Diana may be disappointed. But with an irresistible what-if scenario, against your better judgment it does become a page-turner in the build-up to the pap and princess coming face-to-face.

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