SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
I just cannot say how much I loved this book! Not only did it make me laugh until tears ran down my face, it is also a glorious satire of self-serving, hypocritical politicians.
Dr Alfred Jones is a meek, hen-pecked scientist with a particular interest in the life-cycle of the caddis fly. He works at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence, a department of DEFRA. When a fabulously wealthy Yemeni sheik with a passion for salmon fishing is ready to invest vast sums of money into establishing salmon fishing in his own arid country for the spiritual benefit of his countrymen, the British government, keen to improve relations with the Yemen, instruct the department to prepare a feasibility study for the project.
Faced with the impossibility of making the unfeasible feasible, Dr Jones is offered an alternative: the loss of his job. Terrified of his scornful wife who is carving herself a career in the world of finance, he buckles down and decides to find a way to make the project work, and eventually convinces himself that it’s possible.
Stocks of fish are earmarked for export – drawing the fury of anglers and animal rights groups, while the gentle, religious Sheik is targeted for assassination by Al Qaeda because salmon fishing is anti-Islamic. Busily designing transportation and holding tanks and overseeing building works in dry and dusty Wadi Aleyn, Dr Jones develops a friendship with Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, the Sheik’s agent. He can’t help comparing fragrant, pretty, fun-loving Harriet with dour, ball-breaking, workaholic Mary. But Harriet has her own problems as her fiancé, a soldier, is missing behind enemy lines in Iran.
The British Prime Minster and his slimy spin-doctor wobble like weed in a strong current as they twist and turn to squeeze every potential advantage from the situation whilst simultaneously covering their backs should the project go wrong.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is my idea of a perfect read. It’s beautifully written, hysterically funny, very poignant, and a great story with an unexpected ending. And I learned a useful new word: Anadromous. Definitely an all-time favourite. Thank you, Paul Torday for a wonderful book.
I haven’t seen the film, and don’t plan to, because I believe that the exquisite subtleties that make this book so special can only be conveyed by the written word.
- Reading Corner: ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ (theculturecut.wordpress.com)