“Faith is the cure that heals all troubles. Without faith there is no hope and no love. Faith comes before hope, and before love.”
Dr Alfred Jones, fisheries specialist, is outraged when he is forced to seriously consider the feasibility of a crack-pot scheme to introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen. Ms. Harriet Chetwoood-Talbot, consultant to Sheikh Muhammad, is most persuasive that it might just be possible – and it might. Dr Jones finds himself on the Sheikh’s payroll implementing the idea… and gets a bit more interest from political players than he would really like – and more hostility from his wife than he perhaps deserves…
This audiobook kept me thoroughly entertained for much of January, and it’s a shame I’m only writing about it now. I absolutely loved it… until the last half hour, but we’ll get back to that.
Dr Jones is spectacular. He’s highly intelligent, a little baffled by social norms, but underneath it all a general good egg and capable of great passion for his chosen subject. Harriet is lovely and strong and fragile and generally like so many City women I know, being terribly successful but hiding something a bit darker. The Sheikh was a fascinating character – seemingly omniscient and ever-patient, but sympathetic and the source of many quotes (including the one at the top of this review). As for Mary Jones – she’s a witch! But I can’t pretend I don’t see a tiny bit of myself in her: to her it’s all planned out and the silly man is just ruining it all by not following the plan!
The plot is wonderful. The political nonsense that goes on is wonderful – while the novel is ostensibly about salmon fishing and optimism and tolerance and all sorts of other lovely things with ribbons on, the satire is biting and very, very funny. The dynamic between the three leads is beautiful and fragile and develops so slowly that it is really quite suspenseful.
I was disappointed by the end – it suddenly explained why the book was written in “evidence” form (emails, interviews, minutes of Government meetings), but it felt rushed and unnecessarily tragic. Bathetic, if you will.
There were some gorgeous touches to the writing which really came out beautifully in audio:
- the righteous indignation of the local newspaper when one of their stories is picked up by a bigger paper and derided as a hoax
- the interview with Andrew Marr, political commentator extraordinaire, and the garbage that falls out of Peter Maxwell’s self-aggrandising face
I found a little article written by the author you might enjoy – we’ll overlook the fact it’s in the Daily Mail…
I cannot believe (a) they’re making a movie of this book (b) that it stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristen Scott Thomas are going to be in it (c) that Ewan McGregor is actually going to keep his Scottish accent in this film for once. It’s like all my Christmases have come at once. I will be there in the first week.