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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen [Hardcover]

Paul Torday
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 5 2007
Dr. Alfred Jones is a henpecked, slightly pompous middle-aged scientist at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence in London when he is approached by a mysterious sheikh about an outlandish plan to introduce the sport of salmon fishing into the Yemen. Dr. Jones refuses, but the project, however scientifically absurd, catches the eye of British politicians, who pressure him to work on it. His diaries of the Yemen Salmon Project, from beginning to glorious, tragic end, form the narrative backbone of this novel; interspersed throughout are government memos, e-mails, letters, and interview transcripts that deftly capture the absurdity of bureaucratic dysfunction. With a wickedly wonderful cast of charactersincluding a weasel-like spin doctor, a missing soldier and his intrepid fiance, and Dr. Joness own devilish wifeSalmon Fishing in the Yemen is the whimsical story of an unlikely hero who discovers true love, finds himself first a pawn and then a victim of political spin, and learns to believe in the impossible.

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Product Description

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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 Gaughan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a little weak and transparent Oct. 11 2007
By Lenny D
This is comedy satire is about Dr Alfred Jones, who finds himself reluctantly mixed up in a project to bring salmon to the Highlands of the Yemen. This project changes his life and British politics forever. The book boasts a range of quirky and realistic characters, which are all affected by Fred's involvement in the Salmon project. This novel is both cleverly humorous and thought provoking, and uses a deliciously random and peculiar idea to make a point on the subject of faith and loyalty. Having said this, I found it, at moments, a little weak and transparent, though still enjoyable. However, I highly recommend THE FATES by Tino Georgiou. As a great read, this novel ticks all the right boxes. It is intelligent, cleverly written, encorporating many interesting themes. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rush to Read Dec 5 2007
By Dave and Joe TOP 100 REVIEWER
I found this book on a book table in a gas station. The title interested me and I picked it up with few expectations. What a find. What a reward. This is a book about faith, about miracles, about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. I'm buying copies for everyone, it's worth reading, it's worth talking about ... it's what literature should be - engaging and blissful to read. Loved it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's like PG Wodehouse of the 21st century. What light fun reading this is! So much so, that I sent a copy to Mum overseas; the only other book that got this royal treatment was English Passengers by Matthew Kneale, which was very entertaining, and also enlightening about the conquering of Tasmania.
I wish I could come up with ideas and write like these guys.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A humourous romp with a message. April 2 2012
Two cultures, one scientist, one sheik, one politician, two women. Belief versus cynicism. The radical versus the conservative. Sheik Muhammad loves fly-fishing so much that he wants to share it with his countrymen. He believes that this Zen-like activity can be shared by all citizens of his country, the noble, the plebeian, the strong and the weak and thus, help bring them together. The problem lies with the practical. Salmon are a cold water species who migrate from the gravel of shallow streams to the distant ocean where they spend their adult life only to return at the end of it. The rivers of Kuwait are called wadis because they only fill during the short monsoon season and become dry for the rest of the year. The whole idea of introducing salmon to this environment. Yet, the sheik exhorts a Dr. Alfred Jones, a low-level government scientist to believe. His wife is an economist is committed to a job that forces her to spend months away from her husband. He falls for a estate agent by the name of Harriet Chetwode-Talbot. Peter Maxwell is the cynical communications assistant to the prime minister who wants to bring a feel-good story to the middle-east. It's a humourous romp with a message
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