I identified with the hero, Keith Mabbut. He is fifty-six years old in the book, I will be fifty-six soon. He is at a crossroads in his life and writing career. I am also a writer.
I admit the agents I’ve met are nothing like Keith’s agent Silla. She seemed more like a Hollywood type. Ron Latham from Urgent Books (I enjoyed the name Urgent Books, sounded like a tabloid), wants Keith to write a book about an elusive environmental food soldier named Hamish Melville. They were paying him 180,000 pounds? No, I have to agree with the review in the Guardian about that. Non-Fiction is easier to publish than fiction as a rule, so if I were Keith, alarm bells would have gone off at once. Yes, I know Snooki from Jersey Shore was fronted that kind of money, but she was already well known. You can bet though, the publisher is going to want their slant on it for that kind of money.
And that is really the theme of Mr. Palin’s book. Life’s choices. Are heroes all good, or is there some sort of taint somewhere? The brave knight may have some tarnish on his armor.
There is a secondary theme. Keith goes to find Hamish Melville in the Indian state of Orissa, where an International company wants to build a giant aluminum smelter. That theme is modernization vs. traditionalism and which should win.
The book does show certain choices are difficult to make. No one is one hundred percent saint or sinner, hero or villain.
You could see the Palinesque sense of humor in the book as well as much of what he learned from his travels.
Yes, I found some items that stretched my credulity, but I still found the book an enjoyable read I could read again.