Like with all great books, this one too left me wondering why I hadn’t read it earlier! Perhaps because of the title which while extremely intriguing also seemed utterly ludicrous – Salmon fishing? In the Yemen? Really? Where is Yemen? Do they have fish there? What on earth could this be about? This was my train of thought and I must confess I had to go look up Yemen on a map just to convince myself of its existence (Oh Ok! I knew it existed – I’m not an idiot ;-)), and location. That settled I promptly set the book aside and proceeded to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide… & The Night Circus before returning to it. I do this often…buying books is an obsession and I buy too many on impulse, but reading them is I find more intuitive – I let my gut decide on the right time to read a particular book. I can’t explain it better than to say – the timing feels right and something tells me the book will resonate deeply. I’ll get it…whatever ‘it’ is. It’s a good feeling 🙂
And sure enough there it was – as soon as I read the first few pages – that familiar feeling in the gut that tells you, “This is going to be good!” Soon, I was completely absorbed in this original telling of a familiar tale 🙂 A tale of the power of dreams and of faith; of friendship and commitment; of passion and self-recognition and a testament to the fact that ever so often, a coming of age story is not exclusively for young adults!
So we meet Dr. Jones, a gentleman academic and scientist married to an obnoxious woman (I hate to say this about any woman, even a fictional one, but she is really just awful), who is thrust headfirst into a bizarre project at the whim of a wealthy sheikh. The Sheikh is everything Jones is not – a visionary, a wise man and a wealthy one! Their only common interest is a keen interest in salmon fishing. Oh the things that bind men! The Sheikh has a dream – he dreams of seeing salmon run the rivers of his native land – The Yemen. Bizarre? Duh! Crazy? Duh! Impossible? Hmmm…
We follow Dr. Jones journey as the potency of the Sheihk’s vision slowly becomes his own, transforming him from an unassuming, ineffectual man into a passionate crusader for the salmon and the Project! Along the way Torday uses humor and irony to devastating effect especially with regards to the British bureaucracy which is no different from bureaucracy elsewhere in the world! The insufferable Messieurs Sugden & Maxwell had my teeth on edge…every time they appeared –instantly recognizable as a certain ‘type’ of person and utterly pitiable for being who they were! Clever writing that! Unsurprisingly, I kept thinking of the ‘Yes, Minister’ series all throughout this book! It’s just so quintessentially British 🙂
The book has a love story too, two in fact, but you’ll just have to read the book to know their outcomes! The end is at once shocking, sad yet uplifting – in other words – perfect! Just this way and no other way would have felt right in my gut. I have two favourite quotes. One is a thought that resonated deeply in my core because it’s exactly how I feel about the subject. It’s what Dr. Jones observes after he visits the Yemen for the first time, and is overwhelmed by the wild majesty of the land, the simplicity of its people and their absolute & universal faith in God and religion, “We have moved on from religion,” he thinks and that just says so much to me. Perhaps the erosion of our faith (not just religious), and our inability to believe in the intangible and unquantifiable has caused us more harm than we care to admit. And that brings me to my favourite quote that to me crystallizes the essence of this book. It explains to me why the author wrote this book or so I like to imagine. Maybe he was just thinking of the royalties 😉 Here goes,
“I had belief. I did not know, or for the moment care, what exactly it was I had to believe in. I only knew that belief in something was the first step away from believing in nothing, the first step away from a world which only recognized what it could count, measure, sell or buy. The people here still had that innocent power of belief: not the angry denial of other people’s belief of religious fanatics, but a quiet affirmation. That was what I sensed here, in this land and in this place, which made it so different from home. It was not the clothes, not the language, not the customs, not the sense of being in another century. It was none of these. It was the pervading sense of belief. I believed in belief. I didn’t exactly feel as if I was on the road to Damascus, and I was aware I could not think straight because of the power of the sun, but now I knew what the Yemen salmon project was all about. It had already worked its transformation on me. It would do the same for others.”
How’s that for a thought eh?
I’ve found I enjoy this narrative style – the story told through diary entries, news reports, letters & emails between the principal characters. It keeps things interesting and offers different perspectives. It worked for Atwood’s Alias Grace & it works well here. This one’s a keeper – a fascinating tale of dreams and how they can sometimes consume us but most often will set us free, if only we let them!
Think, “Hitch your wagon to a star!” Enjoy 🙂
P.S. A friend of mine has seen the movie and says it’s great…will have to watch it on DVD when I can.
- Wonderful, brilliant read! (nodamnblog.wordpress.com)
- Salmon as an extended metaphor (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Want a lovely film experience? Go Salmon Fishing in the Yemen! (nediunedited.com)