Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

SlamonFishingA review of the book by Paul Torday.

As I seem to find with every book I know of that has been made into a film, the Salmon Fishing In The Yemen book is better than it’s celluloid counterpart. The film stands on its own as a good movie but the book presents a more complete, absorbing and detailed story. Some of the film’s characters are changed from the book and the ending is quite different. So, if you’ve seen the film, don’t assume you know the story.

Alfred (Fred) Jones, a fisheries scientist working in the Civil Service, is persuaded, I might almost say blackmailed, into taking part in a seemingly crazy project, the vision of a rich Yemeni Sheikh.

Fred, at least until he is introduced to Sheikh Muhammad, is a career Civil Servant who has been married (possibly too young) to the girl he met at university. He is competent in his position and a good scientist, earning much less money than his career minded wife. With the arrival of attractive London estate agent Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, acting on behalf of the Sheikh, his world is bit by bit turned upside down.

As a civil servant he lives a predictable life in a fairly sheltered environment, with limited horizons. The arrival of the Sheikh, with a wild notion to make salmon fishing possible in the Wadi Aleyn, near his home in Yemen, changes everything and gives Fred an opportunity to expand his horizon beyond measure, from the tunnel view from his office.

Unfortunately for Fred, having been coerced into involvement, his science gets mixed up with an over zealous communications consultant working for the Prime Minister, and he becomes an unwilling participant embroiled in vote chasing and international politics, when his only interest is the in the scientific possibilities the project offers.

Salmon Fishing is written in a style that I had not previously encountered. Paul Torday structured his book as a series of collected interviews, diary entries, meeting minutes, e-mail and assorted other documents. They appear to have been collected and collated as might a research portfolio, or investigation into a series of actions and circumstances leading up to some significant event. I suspect that in order to tell the story, some of the presented ‘evidence’ might be a little more detailed than would otherwise be expected, or be available to a researcher.

One tip I offer to future readers of Salmon fFshing is that, it is worth paying attention to the dates assigned to various of the communications included in the book.

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen was an enjoyable read, in a different style of story telling to the usual novel. It is a story about belief; in seeing possibilities in impossible places and situations. Although I only laughed out loud a couple of times as I read the book, it is full of humour.

It is a light, easy going read with an unexpected ending that crept up on me, catching me unawares. I’m a slow reader but some people might read this from start to finish in about four hours. I suspect though that in rushing through it like that they might miss a few of the little subtleties and sly humour tucked away in it’s pages.

“I taught you to take the first step: to learn to believe in belief.
And one day you will take the second step and find what is
it you believe in.”:-Sheikh Muhammad ibn Zaidi bani Tihama.


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