There is something about book based on real persons... By using figures that are essentially real, they inhabit a strange land inbetween fiction and non-fiction and I have always found this grey-zone really interesting. One of the books that I found does this really well is "Life Mask" by Emma Donoghue about the actress Eliza Farren and the sculptress Anne Damer - it had me heading straight for the National Portrait Gallery to see sculptures.
"Untold Story" by Monica Ali is pure fiction but it is based on Princess Diana. The Diana. Princess of Wales. And to be honest, I had no idea to how to handle this. Is it wrong, is it right? Is it disrespectful or is she making use of the artistic right of an author?
In "Untold Story", Ali speculates what would have happened if Diana if she had survived the car crash in Paris and had instead staged her own death to flee to a small town in America to live a normal life. Lydia is the name that Princess Diana takes on as she lives what is a typical life, working at a dog shelter and spending time with her girlfriends who think that she has fled from a powerful husband. It is American surburbia at its finest that has replaced the role of Kensington Palace.
As the story evolves we get the story from Lydia herself and from her former secretary who is the only person she has trusted with her secret. It is the story of a women so fed up with the difficulties of life in the spotlight that she is willing to give up everything, including her children, to start over. It is a choice that comes at a price, a high price and when a British paparazzi surfaces in this oh-so-normal American backwater (incidentally also called Kensington), it could all have been for nothing.