The imaginary fate of the princess is the subject of British author Monica Ali’s latest novel, Untold Story. Ali doesn’t refer to Diana by name, but her main character is definitely her. The princess’s life and marriage were both fairy tale and nightmare. Adored by millions, in her personal life she suffered heartbreak and betrayal. Within a life of privilege, she frequently felt trapped and alone. She also found the constant scrutiny by the media and harassment of by paparazzi unbearable, although she had often deliberately sought attention as well.
In Untold Story, the fictional Diana is called Lydia, who flees London and travels to the United States to settle in small town America. She establishes a lifestyle, albeit tormented by the loss of which is most precious – her children. A chance encounter with a photographer threatens her anonymity, which turns into a cat and mouse game. The novel explores the love of friendship, the meaning of identity and the peculiar trappings of fame.
Monica Ali is the author of the best-selling Brick Lane – about the London area famous for its Indian eateries – also also In The Kitchen and Alentejo Blue. Untold Story’s drama is revealed in Ali’s typical understated and economical style. It’s entirely credible except for one thing. The real Diana loved her children so deeply that despite her life under a microscope, she would never, ever have abandoned them for any reason. Still, if you can suspend belief, you have a good, undemanding read to curl up with on the beach or a long-haul flight.
Untold Story by Monica Ali, published by Random House, $A32.99
In this magical, jewel-like novel, a young Sardinian woman explores the life of her Nonna — her romantic, beautiful, and somewhat crazy grandmother. Nonna is an unforgettable character whose life spans much of the twentieth century. A dreamer with fierce loyalties and unbridled passions, we follow her search for perfect love to an ending both surprising and profound.
Along the way, against the stunning Sardinian landscape of cities, marinas and mountains, we meet the members of her large family, and the mysterious Veteran, the man of her dreams — each one drawn with warmth, humour and deep insight.
Milena Agus writes of family loves and secrets, of sexuality, music, and of the harsh realities of war and migration in 20th-century Europe in a compelling yet whimsical voice. I was amazed at the depth that the author has managed in a book of just 121 pages. It is a sensual work of unusual beauty.
A bestseller in Europe, The House in Via Manno introduces Milena Agus to English-speaking readers in this sparkling translation by Brigid Maher. It was the winner of the Zerilli-Marimò Prize for Italian Fiction in 2008 and is being made into a movie.
The House in Via Manno by Milena Agus, Scribe Publications, $A24.95
Do you like to read on vacation? Taste for Travel has copies of Untold Story and The House In Via Manno to give away. All you need to do is post a comment about what type of books you love to read on holiday at the bottom of this story, and at the end of the month I’ll pick the best.