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Salmon fishing in the Yemen
This book was brought to my attention by GFF contributor Bob Kenly. I had noticed the movie by the same title (and based on the novel) because the web had been overflowing with trailers for it when it premiered in the beginning of 2012. I was honestly more annoyed by the trailers than intrigued, but when Bob recommended the book, I fired off an order.
One great advantage of having the book out as a film is that lots of people buy it - and sell it again. That means really low prices. Like REALLY low! I paid 1 pence (a couple of cents) for the book used in the UK and had it shipped for about 2.5 UK£ or some 4 US$. My copy was virtually as new, and I doubt it had been read at all.
It has been now, because I read it in a few days.
It's an easy read, but then again not as easy as I'd like.
The story is really nice and flows along easily. The book is about a project where the UK gets involved in a project that aims at introducing Atlantic salmon in the Arabic country Yemen, which is probably most known for its unfortunate role in terrorist enrolling and education as well as some less flattering involvement in the trade of rhinoceros horns used for handles on tribal knives.
It's also about the scientist - Dr. Alfred Jones - who is selected to run the technical side of the project and his two female antagonists - one his wife, an economist and bank employee, and the other a consultant in the firm that's hired to take care of the economy and management of the project.
The portrait of Dr. Jones is very witty and highly entertaining, accounting for his interaction with the two ladies, the sheik who has initiated the project, the politicians and civil servants that get involved and not least his boss at the institute where he works. The story has romance, but isn't a romantic novel as such. It unfolds in both surprising and easily foreseen ways. I will not go further into the plot in fear of revealing too much, but let me just assure you that it's both good and well thought through.
The form of the book is also quite thought through, although not as well if you ask me. It takes the form of a series of documents ranging from emails between the people involved, excerpts from diaries, parts of book manuscripts, interviews (interrogations) with some of the characters and other formal papers.
This leads to a very inhomogeneous style and a kind of lumpy text flow. Some parts are smooth and close the prose in any novel while others are literally protocols from parliament or transcripts from interrogations, none of which are nearly as easy to read as say Dr. Jones' diary notes.
In some cases it works. I love the email correspondence between Dr. Jones and his wife. On the other hand I don't enjoy the very formal and staccato style used in the accounts of the debates between the politicians, which require a certain understanding of British politics and parliamentary mechanisms, obscuring the finer details somewhat to a non-Brit like myself.
But the whole story is excellent and probably especially entertaining to fly-anglers. Paul Torday has either fly-fished quite a bit or done his research quite well, because most of the fly-fishing facts as well as the basic view on fly-fishing are spot on, and the premises for the whole Yemen project will very likely resonate quite well with most fly-fishermen.
A fine book for a vacation or a few days in front of the fireplace.