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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
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."
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Cariola on 07-14-11
Great Premise, So-So Book
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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Amazon Customer on 07-07-13
I loved this book!!
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!!