Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

3.1 10
by Paul Torday
     
 

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DEBUT FICTION

UK BESTSELLER

What does it take to make us believe in the impossible?

For Dr. Alfred Jones, life is a quiet mixture of civil service at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence and marriage to Mary—an ambitious, no-nonsense financier. But a strange turn of fate from an unexpected direction forces Jones to upend his existence and spend

Overview

DEBUT FICTION

UK BESTSELLER

What does it take to make us believe in the impossible?

For Dr. Alfred Jones, life is a quiet mixture of civil service at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence and marriage to Mary—an ambitious, no-nonsense financier. But a strange turn of fate from an unexpected direction forces Jones to upend his existence and spend all of his time in pursuit of another man’s ludicrous dream. Can there be salmon in the Yemen? Science says no. But if resources are limitless and the visionary is inspired, maybe salmon fishing in the Yemen isn’t impossible. Then again, maybe nothing is.

Editorial Reviews

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 2007 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

The action in this debut novel centers on British fisheries scientist Dr. Alfred Jones, who has been enlisted by the prime minister to bring salmon into Yemen. This project is financed by the wealthy Sheikh Muhammad, who sees fishing as a unifying activity that will break down the barriers of sect, class, and religion. Dr. Alfred's impossible assignment is documented not only through traditional narrative but also through e-mails, letters, bureaucratic memos, and media interviews, which exposes the ineptitude of Kafkaesque government agencies. Beyond the intriguing plot is a telling contrast between capitalism, clearly identified as the religion of Western culture, and Muslim culture. Dr. Alfred's marital relationship is strained as he becomes interested in Harriet, the British agent who negotiated the project and whose fiancé is missing in action during a covert military raid in Iran. With relationships so difficult on a personal level, communication on a cultural level is clearly all but impossible. In the end, Dr. Alfred falls back on the wisdom of the sheikh: "To learn to believe in belief and one day you will take the second step and find what it is you believe in." Instructive as well as highly entertaining, this fascinating metaphor of Western hubris would be excellent for reading groups.
—David A. Berona

Kirkus Reviews
Sort of like a lesser Monty Python episode, this debut novel features British bureaucrats and biz types who collaborate with a starry-eyed sheikh to spur peace and profits by introducing salmon fishing in the Mideast desert. Middle-aged milquetoast Dr. Alfred Jones shudders at "the irrational, the unpredictable, and the unknown." He's a perfect patsy, then, for Torday to play with. The author embroils the star flunky of the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence in one seriously whacky scheme. E-mailing his dour, domineering spouse, Mary, about the project, Fred initially dismisses it as "scientifically nonsensical." Political pressure, however, prompts his meeting with Sheikh Muhammad, who argues that the Arab-Israeli and Yemeni internecine conflicts just might evaporate if all warring parties embraced gentlemanly fishing. The beguiling billionaire wheedles Fred into submission; even more effectively, so does Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, dishy publicist for Fitzharris & Price, the posh consultants the Sheikh hired to strong-arm Parliament into realizing his impossible dream. Frosty financier Mary belittles Fred by reminding him that her salary's twice his and constantly exacerbating his abandonment issues. Plus, her charms recall those of a Dickensian schoolmarm. Can't blame Fred, then, for falling for Harriet, who might as well be a Bond Girl, and, even while romancing a cute upper-crust captain on tour in Iraq, not above leading Fred on. In short order, things get dizzyingly farcical, as al-Qaeda involvement is suspected, as the notoriously contentious English press assails the Prime Minister and as Fred loses his bearings and his heart. By the end, a House of Commons Foreign AffairsSelect Committee is threatening to bring down a government, and nasty fates have befallen Sheik and Captain. A giggle-inducing fish story.
Booklist
" 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."
From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

“[At] its heart is Jones’s journey from skepticism to belief.” —The New York Times

“Torday’s clear talent is striking such a variety of notes, from soulful to satirical, and making them work as one bracing, bittersweet whole.”—Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

“Paul Torday’s debut novel is about an impossibility. It is also about belief in the impossible, and belief itself. And the remarkable thing is that a book about so deeply serious a matter can make you laugh . . . Salmon Fishing is extraordinary indeed, and a triumph.”—The Guardian (London)

The Economist
"An amusing satire... thought-provoking and memorable. That is an achievement for any author, let alone a first-time novelist."
Booklist (starred review)
" 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."
Daily Mail
"This highly original novel blends satire with gentle humanity in a tale of what happens when idealism meets self-serving politics and bungling bureaucracy... [A] stunning debut."
Sunday Telegraph
"An entertaining and successful debut... Warmly recommended to anyone searching for feelgood comedy with surprising bite."
Evening Standard
"Bizarre doesn't begin to describe the deliciously sly, ironic humour that drives much of the novel and the deftness of Torday's parodies of political spin and hypocrisy."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780753829066
Publisher:
Phoenix
Publication date:
02/28/2012

Read an Excerpt

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen


By Torday, Paul

Harcourt

Copyright © 2007 Torday, Paul
All right reserved.



1
THE ORIGINS OF THE
YEMEN SALMON PROJECT
 
Fitzharris & Price
Land Agents & Consultants
St James's Street
London
 
Dr Alfred Jones
National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Smith Square
London
 
15 May
 
Dear Dr Jones
 We have been referred to you by Peter Sullivan at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Directorate for Middle East and North Africa). We act on behalf of a client with access to very substantial funds, who has indicated his wish to sponsor a project to introduce salmon, and the sport of salmon fishing, into the Yemen.
 We recognise the challenging nature of such a project, but we have been assured that the expertise exists within your organisation to research and project manage such work, which of course would bring international recognition and very ample compensation for any fisheries scientists who became involved. Without going into any further details at this time, we would like to seek a meeting with you to identify how such a project could be initiated and resourced, so that we may report back to our client and seek further instructions.
 We wish to emphasise that this is regarded by our client, who is a very eminent Yemeni citizen, as a flagship project for his country. He has asked us to make clear that there will be no unreasonable financialconstraints. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office supports this project as a symbol of Anglo-Yemeni cooperation.
 
Yours sincerely
(Ms) Harriet Chetwode-Talbot
 
 
National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Smith Square
London
 
Ms Harriet Chetwode-Talbot
Fitzharris & Price
Land Agents & Consultants
St James's Street
London
 
1 June
 
Dear Ms Chetwode-Talbot
 Dr Jones has asked me to thank you for your letter dated 15 May and reply as follows.
 Migratory salmonids require cool, well-oxygenated water in which to spawn. In addition, in the early stages of the salmon life cycle, a good supply of fly life indigenous to northern European rivers is necessary for the juvenile salmon parr to survive. Once the salmon parr evolves into its smolt form, it then heads downriver and enters saltwater. The salmon then makes its way to feeding grounds off Iceland, the Faroes or Greenland. Optimum sea temperatures for the salmon and its natural food sources are between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius.
 We conclude that conditions in the Yemen and its geographical location relatively remote from the North Atlantic make the project your client has proposed unfeasible, on a number of fundamental grounds. We therefore regret we will be unable to help you any further in this matter.
 
Yours sincerely
Ms Sally Thomas (Assistant to Dr Jones)
 
 
Office of the Director, National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
From: David Sugden
To: Dr Alfred Jones
Subject: Fitzharris & Price/ Salmon/ Yemen
Date: 3 June
 
Alfred
I have just received a call from Herbert Berkshire, who is private secretary to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
 The FCO view is very clear that this project is to be given our fullest consideration. Notwithstanding the very real practical difficulties in the proposal from Fitzharris & Price, of which as your director I am fully aware, the FCO feel that we should seek to give what support we can to this project.
 Given the recent reductions in grant-in-aid funding for NCFE, we should not be too hasty to decline work which apparently connects us to excellent private sector funding sources.
 
Yours
David
 
 
Memo
From: Alfred Jones
To: Director, NCFE
Subject: Salmon/ Yemen
Date: 3 June
 
David
I appreciate the points you have raised in your memo of today's date. Having given the matter my fullest consideration, I remain unable to see how we could help Fitzharris & Price and their client. The prospect of introducing salmon to the wadis of the Hadramawt seems to me, quite frankly, risible.
 I am quite prepared to back this up with the relevant science, should anyone at the FCO require further information on our grounds for not proceeding.
 
Alfred
 
 
Office of the Director, National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
From: David Sugden
To: Dr Alfred Jones
Subject: Salmon/ Yemen
Date: 4 June
 
Dr Jones
Please accept this memo as my formal instruction to proceed to the next stage of the Yemen salmon project with Fitzharris & Price. I would like you to meet Ms Harriet Chetwode-Talbot and receive a full briefing, following which you are to develop and cost an outline scope of work for this project for me to review and forward to the FCO.
 I take full responsibility for this decision.
 
David Sugden
 
 
-----
FROM: <Fred.Jones@ncfe.gov.uk>
DATE: 4 June
TO: <David.Sugden@ncfe.gov.uk>
SUBJECT: Yemen Salmon Project
 
David
Can we talk about this? I'll pop round to your office after the departmental meeting.
 
Alfred
 
-----
FROM: <Fred.Jones@ncfe.gov.uk>
DATE: 4 June
TO: <Mary.Jones@interfinance.org>
SUBJECT: Job
 
DarlingI am being put under unreasonable pressure by David Sugden to put my name to some totally insane project dreamed up by the FCO to do with salmon being introduced into the Yemen. There have been memos flying around on this for days and I suppose I thought it was so bizarre I didn't even mention it to you last time we spoke. I popped into David S's office just now and said, "Look, David, be reasonable. This project is not only totally absurd and scientifically nonsensical, but if we allow our name to be involved no one in the fisheries world will ever take us seriously again."
 Sugden was totally stone-faced. He said (pompously), "This one is coming from higher up. It isn't just some minister at the FCO with a bee in his bonnet. It goes all the way to the top. You've had my instruction. Please get on with it."
 I have not been spoken to like that since I left school. I am seriously considering handing in my resignation.
 
Love
Fred
 
PS When are you back from your management training course?
 
-----
FROM: <Mary.Jones@interfinance.org>
DATE: 4 June
TO: <Fred.Jones@ncfe.gov.uk>
SUBJECT: Financial realities
 
Fred
My annual salary is £75,000 gross and yours is £45,561. Our combined net of taxed monthly income is £7,333 out of which our mortgage takes £3,111, rates, food and other household expenses a further £1,200, and that's before we think about car costs, holidays, and your fishing extravagances. Resign your job? Don't be a prat.
 
Mary
 
PS I am home on Thursday but I have to leave on Sunday for New York for a conference on Sarbanes-Oxley.
 
 
Memo
From: Andrew MacFadzean, principal private secretary to the secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs
To: Herbert Berkshire, private secretary to the parliamentary undersecretary of state, FCO
Subject: Salmon/ Yemen Project
 
Herbert
Our masters tell us this project should be pushed on a bit. The sponsor is not a UK citizen, but the project can be presented as a template for Anglo-Yemeni cooperation, which of course has wider implications for perceptions of UK involvement in the Middle East.
 I think you could quietly drop a word in the ear of David Sugden, whom I believe is the director of the fisheries people at DEFRA, that a successful outcome to this project might attract the attention of the committee putting forward recommendations for the next New Year honours list. Equally it is only fair to point out that an unsuccessful outcome might make it difficult to defend NCFE against further cuts in grant funding in the next round of negotiations with the Treasury for the new financial year. This might help get the right messages across. We have, of course, talked at a senior level to the appropriate people in DEFRA. Keep this off the record.
 Lunch at the club at 1 P.M. tomorrow?
 
Yrs
Andy
 
 
Memo
From: Director of communications, prime minister's office
To: Dr Mike Ferguson, director veterinary, food & aquatic sciences, Chief Scientists' Group
Subject: Yemen salmon project
 
Mike
This is the sort of initiative that the prime minister really, really likes. We want some broad-brush comments on feasibility from you. We do not require anyone to say absolutely that it would work, only that there is no reason for not trying.
 
Peter
 
 
Memo
From: Dr Michael Ferguson, director veterinary, food & aquatic sciences, Chief Scientists' Group
To: Peter Maxwell, director of communications, prime minister's office
Subject: Yemen salmon project
 
Dear Mr Maxwell
Monthly average rainfall in the western mountains of the Yemen is around four hundred millimetres in each of the summer months, and mean temperatures at elevations above two thousand metres fall to a range of between seven and twenty-seven degrees Celsius. This is not uncharacteristic of British summer weather and therefore we conclude that for short periods of the year conditions exist, particularly in the western provinces of the Yemen, which are not necessarily inimical to migratory salmonids.
 We therefore speculate that a model based on the artificial release and introduction of salmonids into the wadi systems for short periods of the year, linked to a programme of trapping the salmon and returning them to cooler, saline water during other periods of the year, would not be an inappropriate starting point for a modelling exercise to be carried out by the departments with the relevant expertise. I believe NCFE is the most appropriate organisation for this.
 I hope this brief note is sufficient for your purposes at this stage?
 
Yrs
Michael Ferguson
 
PS Have we met?
Paul Torday 2007

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Continues...

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

"A wonderful novel—a cry for humanity in our target-driven, spin-riddled world."—MARINA LEWYCKA, author of A SHORT HISTORY OF TRACTORS IN UKRAINIAN

Meet the Author


PAUL TORDAY studied English literature at Pembroke College, Oxford, before embarking on a business career. He lives in Northumberland. This is his first book.

British Publisher

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
ShakerHtsReader More than 1 year ago
We have given this book to fly fishing fans, who have enjoyed it thoroughly, as did we although we have never fly-fished. The twists and turns and the personalities including a British fisheries expert and the sheik himself are really entertaining. When you add in a rather unscrupulous PR man for the British Prime Minister and a perception problem the Prime Minister is having, you have a fast-paced, entertaining read. Fun, funny, not mindless -- perfect for the serious reader who wants a diversion.
Oldemsr More than 1 year ago
I saw the movie which was sweet and romantic & came home and bought the book. The formats were very different & cold.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book came highly recommended......I felt like I was climbing a mountain .......it was getting beter and better...got to the top of the mountain and was thrown off......a very "let down" of an ending.
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mcknzbwl More than 1 year ago
Cannot rate something that I have not received yet.