>> Tuesday, October 25, 2011
One of the main things that sets this novel apart from the competition is that Diana is not only alive, she hasn't taken drastic measures to escape from the past. The car accident happened. Another car was involved and the Mercedes hit the pillar. The driver died, there is no Trevor Rees-Jones, but Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed survived.
When Diana died, many unanswered questions remained. Was Diana just having a fling with Dodi? Were they engaged to be married? Was she pregnant? Was someone trying to kill her? Princess Diana - The Day She Didn't Die tries to answer them by fictionalizing what Diana's life would have been like in the aftermath of the accident.
Dodi Al Fayed's reported reputation as a playboy while alive is replaced by a responsible businessman, more than capable of holding his own with Diana and the complications that come with her. To their credit, the authors do not take the easy route by reducing Diana to a charicature based on public perception.
People viewed Diana in a variety of ways. She was seen as a fairytale princess, a fashion icon, and someone who had great influence. Despite her divorce, the interest in Diana would not have ended but instead evolved. To gauge the public response to her new life with Dodi Al Fayed, we have the perspective of a university student named Ella. Because of Diana, Ella is also exploring Islam and experiences similiar conflicts while dating a Muslim, albeit on a smaller scale.
One of the biggest unanswered questions is whether Diana would have converted to Islam. While interesting, I found there to be too much emphasis on religion and the effect on their relationship. While understandable under the circumstances, there should have been more to her existence. Given her seeming addiction to the limelight, it's hard to imagine Diana giving up her global role; no matter how much she loves Dodi. In life, taking a backseat never seemed to be Diana's style, and it's unrealistic to expect otherwise.
The role of the royal family is minimized to occasional visits from her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry and a guest appearance by a disapproving Prince Charles. Yet there is also the interesting possibilities of what Diana's role would have been as a de facto member of the royal family which remain unexplored.
Covering the period from the 1997 car accident to the September 11th, 2001 attacks the ending is somewhat abrupt, leaving more questions than answers. Seemingly on the verge of converting, there are many possibilities that could have been explored, with not only Diana's continued reluctance to embrace Islam, but also Dodi's potential complications in the aftermath of 9/11. Given everything they went through up to that point, it's interesting to contemplate whether their relationship could have withstood this development.
As in real life, we will never really know. But this book takes an effective, realistic and plausible attempt at imagining what could have been without resorting to happily ever after.
© Marilyn Braun 2011
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