Keith Mabbut is at a crossroads in his life. When he is offered the opportunity of a lifetime - to write the biography of the elusive Hamish Melville, a highly influential activist and humanitarian - he seizes the chance to write something meaningful. His search to find out the real story behind the legend takes Mabbut to Orissa and the environmental hotspots of India. The more he discovers about Melville, the more he admires him - and the more he connects with an idealist who wanted to make a difference. But is his quarry really who he claims to be? As Keith discovers, the truth can be whatever we make it…In this wonderful, heartwarming novel, Michael Palin turns his considerable skills to fiction in the story of a ordinary man on an extraordinary adventure.
Michael Palin has long been a respected comic, TV personality, and diarist. Having presented many travel programs and in so doing becoming attracted to India, in 2010 he was moved to send a message of support to Dongria Kondh, a tribe on the eastern coast of India who are resisting a mine on their land.
The Truth may well be influenced by this experience.
It tells the story of Keith Mabbut, a middle-aged environmental journalist who was once a champion of the underdog, writing stories about big company pollution and chemical spills. In recent times Mabbut has reached an impasse in all areas of his life. His marriage is ending perhaps as a result of his desire to leave his social activism and align himself with Big Company money.
Mabbut gets the chance to redeem himself when he is given a handsome commission to write a biography of the famed environmental crusader Hamish Melville. Mabbutt feels compromised by the fact that it is a big publishing house commissioning him but eventually takes the commission, telling himself he must do justice to the truth of this man whom he idolises whilst regaining his own moral compass.
But can Mabbut get this book written or will Melville continue to evade him?
Palin writes with great compassion and the twists and turns in this story keep you guessing as to its outcome. Thought-provoking and genuinely entertaining.
The Truth is out now in paperback ($32.99).
Michael Awosoga-Samuel is a bookseller and music specialist at Readings Carlton.
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