Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday – 9/10

“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.

Other links: Cornflower in conversation with the author, review by Gaskella

Additional info:
Copy borrowed from the library.
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group, 8 hours and 20 minutes
Order Salmon Fishing in the Yemen from Amazon*
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8 thoughts on “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday – 9/10

  1. Leeswammes 17 April 2012 at 6:24 pm Reply

    I enjoyed this book too! I read it several years ago but since I read it, I’ve read all other books by Paul Torday and they are all good.

    So nice there is going to be a film – I’ll go and see it for sure!

  2. gaskella 17 April 2012 at 6:53 pm Reply

    I’m longing to go and see the film – especially Kristen Scott Thomas as the female version of Maxwell!

  3. [...] Continue reading here: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday – 9/10 | Reading With Tea [...]

  4. Amused By Books (@amusedbybooks) 19 April 2012 at 8:21 pm Reply

    Now you have made me incredibly intrigued to see the film, but even more intrigued about the book. Great review!

  5. [...] absolutely loved Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and cannot wait to go and see it as a film. I also enjoyed The Tenderness of Wolves in audio [...]

  6. [...] it worked very well in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and spectacularly in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, while I wasn’t a huge fan of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Suffice to say, the book’s [...]

  7. […] I picked The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce by Paul Torday off the shelf, having loved Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and in honour of the author, who died […]

  8. […] an epistolatory novel. 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen are some of my favourite books. Letters and depositions/meeting notes permit lots of dialogue to […]

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