Title: Untold Story
Author: Monica Ali
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
In this “what if” novel, Ali tackles the question of Princess Diana of Wales, and specifically, what would have happened if she had faked her death? It’s 10 years later, and “Lydia” has settled comfortably into her new life. She has friends and is a volunteer at the local animal shelter, and though she has some regrets, such as leaving her boys behind, she enjoys her quiet life in the American Midwest. But when a royal photographer happens to be in her small town, Lydia’s perfect life could come crashing down around her all over again.
When I first heard about the subject of Monica Ali’s novel Untold Story, I didn’t know what to think. After all, the “ripped from the headlines” subject matter seems out of character for her literary writing style. But I was very curious about this book, so I decided to read it, just to see what Ali’s imagination had to say about the princess.
Untold Story is a quiet novel. Most of the book is about Lydia’s rather mundane life, spending time with her friends, pondering her past and her painful memories. It is intensely character driven. Lydia isn’t the most likeable character – she can be very selfish and almost manic at times – but she has an aura of pain and vulnerability around her that is easy to sympathize with. It’s also clear how much she has grown as a person over the years. While at one point in her life, she needed the constant attention of the press, now she is content with her quiet life working with animals.
The drama of the book – the possibility that Lydia’s secret could be exposed to the world – isn’t actually all that dramatic. And that’s because this book really isn’t about the drama. Instead, it’s about the solace Lydia finds in the monotony of her everyday life. Monica Ali’s writing is gorgeous from beginning to end. The grace of her prose really illuminates the beauty in a quiet, well-lived life, especially for someone like Lydia who has had the misfortune to live the opposite.
I went into Untold Story expecting to dislike it, so I was really surprised that I really did enjoy it. It’s a beautiful piece of literary fiction, though I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to all readers. It’s easy to read; it can be slow at times, but that’s the point of the novel. The pace speeds up as the different storylines culminate, and as a result it would be easy to read this book in one or two sittings. If you’re looking for a literary read with a little ripped-from-the-headlines guilty pleasure thrown in, this is the perfect novel to pick up.