Sunday, 14 July 2013

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

"I have noticed in this country that although there is violence and aggression - your football hooligans, for instance - there is one group for whom patience and tolerance are the only virtues. I speak of salmon fishermen."

After having seen the recent film staring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt I was keen to read the actual 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' book. Despite knowing the storyline I thought that it would still be a good read however it was inevitable that I would compare it to the film throughout.

The format of the novel was different from anything that I had read previously in that it comprised solely of documents, interviews, emails and diary entries. As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of novels which are not written in a conventional form but this was easy to follow and the emails in particular helped to gauge the relationship between Fred and Mary. Therefore, although I am not completely converted to this style of novel, I understand why the author chose to write in such a way.

Moreover, due to the nature of the novel there were not a vast number of characters which was something that I found particularly interesting because it allows the reader to engage with the personality of each character. The three main characters within the story are:
*Fred Jones - The fisheries expert who becomes engrossed in meticulously planning the logistics of salmon fishing within the Yemen.
*Harriet Chatwode-Talbot - The financial expert who becomes as invested in the project as Fred and the Sheik.
*Sheik Muhammed - The 'visionary' who wants to take the pastime of salmon fishing to the Yemen in order to bring peace to the otherwise troubled country.

Paul Torday - the author
Although the main plot is driven by introducing salmon into the Yemen there are many other issues raised which were of paramount importance to the overall effect of the novel. I think that for me, these issues were of more significance than the actual fishing part because they were expansive issues which will always be relevant.

Relationships are something which the novel serves to highlight both through Fred and his wife, Mary, and Harriet and her fiancĂ©, Robert. Mary is highly career driven and decides to move to Geneva leaving Fred and her marriage behind whilst Robert goes missing in action in Afghanistan. Both of these relationships provide a basis for thought and through their contrasting nature, in my opinion, they are somehow more poignant. 

Another major issue within the novel is that of faith and belief: the Sheik has complete belief in the project and eventually so to do Fred and Harriet. This shows how narrow minded we are when it comes to faith in our modern societies, we automatically think of conventional religions when we hear the words faith of belief when in fact they need not necessarily be related to religion at all.It also led me to think of how cynical we are in the Western world; we tend not to believe things until they are proved to us or are tangible but really isn't childlike optimism and belief better?

The poster for the film adaptation
I know that many people who had read the book before watching the film did not like the adaptation, not least because the endings are different. This led to a surprise for me at the end of the novel and I am still undecided as to which I prefer - the fairytale ending or the more realistic one.

Overall, despite enjoying the book I think that I preferred the film but maybe this is merely because it was how the story was first presented to me. Furthermore, although I very much like the premise of the story and the issues it raises, nevertheless I don't think that I would recommend this novel to everyone because it requires a certain amount of persistence in reading some of the documents which detail the technicalities of salmon.

Please let me know in the comments whether you have read the book or seen the film and what your views were. What did you think of the ending?


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