Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

Salmon fishing in the Yemen, by Paul Torday, is an original story of the attempt to introduce fly fishing for salmon into the wadis of southern Yemen, which has catastrophic consequences. This story revolves around a British fisheries scientist and his efforts to find a way of succeeding with the visionary project of a Yemeni Sheikh, and also on how members of the British government hijack the scheme for a vote-winning photo opportunity.

This book is written in a very unusual style, being a collection of documents; diaries, police reports, memoirs, letters and e-mails which at first feel rather awkward, but as the book progresses, the reader becomes comfortable with what is a rather original style which makes a fairly average book into something that stands out from others. This construction of the novel means that many of the documents are very personal to the characters, and this means that the characters become quite developed, although the ending perhaps leaves one wanting a little more from some of the main protagonists.

This book falls into the genre popular fiction and the author does a fine job in parodying the "spin" culture practiced by government, and achieves a number of amusing moments in this; the British Prime Minister is an instantly recognizable character! The difference in spirituality between Yemeni culture and British culture is also dealt with in an over-emphasized and over-romanticized way but it is used as a tool to stimulate the changes of personality that the British scientist goes through; this is highlighted in his changing attitude to his loveless marriage.

Overall this is a very readable book, original and with a story that is interesting enough to capture readers and leave them wanting more; in fact it is true that the ending is rather flat after a sensational conclusion to the salmon project.

I would recommend this book to a wide range of readers, particularly those who are disdainful of the culture of "spin" employed by recent governments. For readers who enjoy unusual writing styles, this book will be of interest and anyone who simply enjoys interesting tales will like this story.

Score: 8/10

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