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What if Princess Diana were still alive?

Novelist Monica Ali – and others – indulge in speculation over alternate endings to the story of the Princess of Wales.

By Husna Haq / June 29, 2011

What if Princess Di had lived to be 50? Or had faked her own death? Newsweek and novelist Monica Ali both take some heat over imaginary projections about the life of Diana Spencer.

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It’s a question we’re not supposed to ask ourselves (quash useless regrets before they grow, says mother). But it’s also a question that makes for an irresistible novel.

As in, what if Princess Diana hadn’t died in that tragic car accident in Paris?

That’s the premise of Monica Ali’s new novel, “Untold Story,” and it’s already raising eyebrows.

In it, Diana fakes her own death in the famous car crash, later jumps off her boyfriend’s yacht, swims to a Brazilian beach, has a bit of plastic surgery, then finds her way to a little American town called Kensington (that’s right) and settles into a quiet, ordinary, suburban life as a tall, slim brunette named Lydia.

Tantalizing, sure, but here’s another what if. What if Diana were alive? What would she have thought of this? Does it make you just a wee bit squeamish?

Ms. Ali, high-brow Brit author of Booker-nominated “Brick Lane,” is facing heat on this, her most daring novel. It’s been called low-brow, exploitative, in poor taste.

But Ali isn’t the only one pushing the envelope with a fictionalized account of a real person. Mark Helprin’s “Freddy and Fredericka,” a playful parody of a future king and queen of England, is a thinly veiled satire of Charles and Diana. And Curtis Sittenfeld’s “American Wife,” about a bookish woman with liberal tendencies who marries a ne’er-do-well rake – who happens to be the son of a famous politician – and who loves booze and parties and eventually becomes President? We don’t even have to tell you it’s the fictional account of Laura Bush’s life. (Ms. Sittenfeld gently, but firmly, criticized “Untold Story” as bland, simplistic, and banal, in a review in the New York Times.)

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