It seems like I’ve been extra busy of late, what with the new baby, plus changes at work and a lot of new things to learn. Then there is the fact that I’ve been reading a couple of non-fiction books, all of which has meant that I’ve not been ‘novelreading’ (to use my blog’s title) for a little while. And I have to say, it’s just not right! I don’t quite know how to put it into words, but I never really feel quite satisfied with life if I am not in the process of reading a good novel. So, one evening earlier in the week, when I had had enough of working, I went up to the study and decided it was high time to pick up a novel.

And this is what I plumped for: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. I read another of his novels, The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce, two or three years back and enjoyed that, and I was feeling in the mood for something fairly light and fun.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

First of all a word or two about the title. Now we all know that some books are given cunningly mysterious and appealing titles, which turn out to have little or no relevance to the book’s contents (Chrome Yellow springs to my mind). Then there are many wonderful, engaging, brilliant books that have the most mundane of titles (I mean, Mrs. Dalloway as a title doesn’t exactly leap out at you, does it?). However, I have to concede, that here the novel does exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak. This really is a tale about salmon fishing in the Yemen. Yes, that’s right, the Yemen.

Dr Alfred Jones is a quiet, slightly dull fisheries scientist. He is bullied into things by his boss at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence, and outside of work is stuck in a loveless marriage. Then one day, the most unusual and unlikely pieces of work gets assigned to him: to provide scientific advice to a very rich sheik who is obsessed with the idea of introducing salmon fishing in the Yemen wadis – that is, the valleys / riverbeds that run dry for three quarters of the year.

At first it all seems so ridiculous and a waste of his talents, and yet as Dr Jones spends more and more time with the inspiring sheik and works on his peculiar project, he begins to see many things in a new light.

This is a book about inspiration, about hope, about belief and about seeing beyond the conventional. The sheik, with all of his humanity and good faith, is contrasted in the novel with the cynicism and spin-doctoring of the government and its officials. The novel is pretty funny in places, with some great government caricatures and amusing scenes, yet there is also real emotion here, as we follow Dr Jones on his own personal journey. An enjoyable and quick read.