Book Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon FishingSalmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

The blurb: This is the story of Dr Alfred Jones, a fisheries scientist – for whom diary-notable events include the acquisition of a new electric toothbrush and getting his article on caddis fly larvae published in ‘Trout and Salmon’ – who finds himself reluctantly involved in a project to bring salmon fishing to the Highlands of the Yemen – a project that will change his life, and the course of British political history for ever.

With a wickedly wonderful cast of characters – including a visionary Sheikh, a weasely spin doctor, Fred’s devilish wife and a few thousand transplanted salmon – SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is a novel about hypocrisy and bureaucracy, dreams and deniability, and the transforming power of faith and love.

My review: I so wanted to like this book. The style – emails, prose, letters makes for a very interesting format but sadly that could not distract me from the fact that I didn’t care about the characters or their situations.

There was one exception. The Sheikh is the one character that really shone for me in this book, he was portrayed with such visionary wisdom and as a master of his own silence as well as having an uncanny ability to read people, that he’s a perfectly formed, if a little hard to believe, character.

Dr Alfred Jones, his turmoil, his moral obligations, his staid and messy marriage. The Prime Minister and his spin doctor, their machinations, their dysfunctional and corrupt relationship. Harriet and her fiancee, I just found their situations and their narrative strands beyond feasibility to the point where I was skipping paragraphs to get to the end. Which brings me to the ending, I don’t want to ruin this for future readers and there will be many I’m sure after the film adaptation with Ewan McGregor. But really?? Really??!? The ending takes plausibility and drowns it in a wadi. There is no realism here. The messages throughout of faith and love, morality, hypocrisy seem to be cast adrift on a comic turn with no anchor point, no drive and no follow through. I am sorry to say this one was one I could have passed over.

4 out of 10 stars ****

BUY ME! Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

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