The Truth

Michael Palin--yes, the Monty Python Michael Palin--returns to fiction with The Truth, his first novel since 1994's Hemingway's Chair.

Once an idealistic and award-winning journalist, Keith Mabbut now writes histories about (and for) oil companies to pay his bills. He's estranged from his son, a wannabe actor, and his daughter has fallen for an Iranian refugee. His almost-ex-wife is inviting him to meet her rich, handsome new gentleman friend. In an attempt to make a fresh start, Mabbut decides to try novel writing, but before he can fully commit to his dawn of man/interstellar visitor storyline--"It's not science fiction, it's historical re-creation"--his agent approaches him with a deal: six figures to write a biography of an environmental activist.

The catch? Hamish Melville, the activist in question, leads a life of fanatical privacy. Mabbut ultimately finds the project too enticing to pass up, and embarks on a journey into some of India's most beautiful and environmentally embattled areas. At first mistrusted and even bullied by Melville, who believes him a spy, Mabbut slowly comes to appreciate Melville's passion for protecting the villagers in rural India, threatened by the prospect of strip mining. But even if Mabbut does get the story of a lifetime, what exactly is his publishers' motive for commissioning it? More importantly, is Melville the ultimate hero--or the ultimate lie?

Palin's experience in travel writing shows in his descriptions of Indian landscape and culture. Secrets within secrets lurk around every corner in this sharp, wistfully funny journey from a man's cynical exterior to his inner idealist. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

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