We’re approaching the 12th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and while we’ve been inundated with books about her life and death, surprisingly few novels have been written about her as yet.
I’m aware of only eight English-language novels about Diana, and all but one of them is about her death or afterlife. The one exception, Di and I by Peter Lefcourt is, unsurprisingly, the only one published before Diana’s death. As I recall, it’s a tongue-in-cheek story in which the author imagines Diana running away from royal life to live with him. She gets a nose job (ugh, no, Diana!) and goes to work as a waitress.
I tried to read this book shortly after Diana’s death, and found it silly and depressing given what had really happened to Diana, so I didn’t finish reading it. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your opinion of it.
The mysterious circumstances surrounding Diana’s death spawned a mini-genre of books aimed at readers who don’t want to believe she died in a car accident. (She did.) To the best of my knowledge, the first novels of this type, both published in 1999, were Aaron McCallum Becker’s Whose Death in the Tunnel?, which suggests Diana faked her own death, and A Life to Di For by Kay Kellam, which has a similar premise and a time-travel twist.
After it sank in that Diana really was dead, writers started producing books about her “murder.” The Accident Man (2008) by Tom Cain is a thriller about a freelance mercenary who organizes the car crash that kills Diana. 12:23 – Paris, 31st August 1997 by Eoin McNamee, published in 2007, is another thriller about “sinister forces” behind Diana’s death.
Danuta de Rhodes tried a different tack with The Little White Car (2005), a wacky comedy about the driver of the mysterious white Fiat Uno involved in the crash. I don’t think this is the best topic for wacky comedy, but that’s just me.
An interesting recent development in the Diana death genre: novels about Diana in the afterlife. His Lovely Wife (2006) by Elizabeth Dewberry is about a woman who hears the late princess’s voice in her head and begins to understand the parallels between their lives. I’d like to read this one.
Diana: The Ghost Biography by Emma Tennant and Hilary Bailey, published in April of this year, is a comic suspense novel about a mysterious new royal employee who seems to be the second coming of Princess Diana. This book did not attract a lot of attention, perhaps because the concept is rather murky, or because Princess Diana’s death still fails to strike readers as knee-slappingly funny.
One of the most intriguing Diana novels is Lady D by French writers Isabelle Rivére and Caroline Babert. Published in 2007, it imagines what Diana’s life might have been like if she’d walked away from that accident in Paris uninjured. The authors seem to know quite a bit about Princess Diana, and it looks like a book that Diana fans would enjoy. I hope it’s published in English someday.
Why so many novels about Diana’s death and so few about her life? Is it appropriate or inappropriate to publish books of this sort? Is it disrespectful to her sons, or to Diana herself? What do you think?
2011 UPDATE: Here’s a new post about more recent novels about Diana.