sometimes witty book reviews
Dr Fred Jones is a fisheries scientist working for the British government. His wife is a painfully practical economist. Their marriage is tremendously dull and they both like it. Or they think they do. Enter one Yemeni Sheik who wants to introduce salmon, who live and breed in some of the coldest running waters on earth, into his home country – where the wadis are dry for six months of the year. It’s crazy. Fred knows it.
Enter one Harriet Chetwode-Talbot. An extremely capable partner at the Sheik’s real estate agent. She’s intelligent, charming and very, very convincing. Add to Ms Chetwode-Talbot’s panache a little of the Sheik’s inspiring faith and Fred finds himself swept up in in more than he bargained for (cue al-Qaeda, the Prime Minister and a lot of Yemeni men being taught to fish by an easily enraged Scottish gillie).
Paul Torday has managed to string together the bloody unrest of the Middle East and the (in Australia) rather niche interest of angling, to create a bizarrely endearing story of one man discovering what makes him happy. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a witty and effortlessly light to read. The story is set out in a series of documents (emails, journal entries, minutes) all contributed by various characters. At times this feels a little too controlled and there is a barely a change of narrative style in the different voices. However, the plight of Fred and the Sheik’s dream does leave you grinning.
It may require a multi million dollar project to get salmon running in the middle of the Yemeni desert, several deaths and a a lot of political string pulling – but Dr Fred, and the reader, eventually find a little happiness.