From Publishers Weekly
In Torday's winningly absurdist debut, Dr. Alfred Jones feels at odds with his orderly life as a London fisheries scientist and husband to the career-driven Mary, with whom he shares a coldly dispassionate relationship. Just as Mary departs for a protracted assignment in Geneva, Alfred gets consulted on a visionary sheik's scheme to introduce salmon, and salmon-angling, to the country of Yemen. Alfred is deeply skeptical (salmon are cold-water fish that spawn in fresh water; Yemen is hot and largely desert), but the project gains traction when Peter Maxwell, the prime minister's director of communications, seizes on it as a PR antidote to negative press related to the Iraq war. Alfred is pressed by his superiors to meet with the sheik's real estate rep, the glamorous young Harriet, and embarks on a yearlong journey to realize the sheik's vision of spiritual peace through fly-fishing for the people of Yemen. British businessman and angler Torday captures Alfred's emerging humanity, Maxwell's antic solipsism, Mary's calculating neediness and Harriet's vulnerability, presenting their voices through diaries, e-mails, letters and official interviews conducted after the doomed venture's surprisingly tragic outcome. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* Almost exclusively through correspondence--memos, e-mails, diary excerpts, and the text of a government investigation--Torday has woven a charming novel about a bizarre plan to introduce salmon fishing into Yemen and bring the benefits of the sport to Yemenis. When first approached, Alfred Jones, a scientist at London's National Centre for Fisheries Excellence, dismisses the idea as ridiculous, but it catches the attention of the prime minister's spinmeister, and Alfred is compelled to consult with the author (and bankroller) of the plan, a fabulously wealthy Yemeni sheik. Dutifully, Smith begins to study the idea while realizing that his 20-year marriage to a shrewish, driven banker is devoid of love. And, while being tossed about by political agendas, he begins to believe that the impossible may be possible. That may sound trite, but Torday carries it off with a wacky plot, vivid characters, and a knowing sense of politics and bureaucracy. A remarkably assured first novel, this one is a pure delight. Thomas GaughanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved