My pick for today’s topic, a book I feel is underrated, is The Truth by Michael Palin. While I wasn’t thrilled with his first novel, which was written nearly two decades ago, this second novel only published last year is something else entirely, and I’m stunned the average rating for it is 3.5 stars on Goodreads. The only explanation for this I can think of is that lots of Monty Python fans are picking it up hoping it’ll be funny, when it’s really quite serious.
Instead of taking inspiration from his comedy career, it’s clear that Palin is heavily influenced by all that he has seen around the world over the years while making his travel documentaries (of which I think there are about 7 or 8 series now). Much of the novel is set in India, where one-hit-wonder environmental journalist Keith Mabbut is trying to track down the elusive humanitarian worker Hamish Melville, a hero of Mabbut’s. While there is an overarching story involving a man called Ron Latham, who is paying Mabbut a suspiciously large amount of money to write a biography on Melville, that story gets put aside for much of the time spent in India as we learn about some of the places that Melville is working in, and while much of it is fictionalised the plights faced by the people there obviously have some basis in reality.
But why am I saying it’s underrated? Well, quite simply it’s a really good book, but not well known. The writing is impeccable, the story is clever with twists and turns right until the very end, and the characters are so damn likeable despite all their flaws (something which put me off Palin’s debut novel). It’s not only rated too low on Goodreads so far as I’m concerned, but it’s the sort of book that slipped under the radar for most people, including me – I didn’t know about it until I randomly saw it in Sweden of all places earlier this year. I only wish more people knew about its existence and could read it, because it deserves to be read and enjoyed by many people.
If you love travel, or love Michael Palin, or for that matter both of these, chances are you’ll like this book. It’s clever and thought provoking, and very underrated.
What books do you think are underrated? Why do you think that might be so?