The Fisherman's chant
Rod/reel,Flask/creel, Net/fly book/, And lunch!
"Here, in Yemen as well as lairds and castles, we have mists and glens, kilts, dirks and the odd feud or two. But unlike in Scotland the rain is considerate, coming at known seasons and times of day. It is also somewhat sparing, and there are no natural lochs or permanent rivers, and certainly no salmon (except smoked, on HBM ambassador's canapes). So 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, all the way to a last twist that's as sudden and shocking as a barbed hook"
The road from Impossibility to Belief can be a long one. Jay Vent, the British prime minister, has his country in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dug himself in a deep hole. And, he goes on digging. The Prime Minister's PR person hears that a wealthy Yemeni sheikh, is planning to introduce salmon to his land, and he spots a perfect photo opportunity, front page stuff. The sheik's plan has to be made to work. The initial proposal was drafted by Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, the sheik's land agent, who is polite and promises "no unreasonable financial constraints". The responsibility for the success falls on the shoulders of Dr. Alfred Jones, fisheries scientist. He is also a husband of Mary, a high roller in international banking who observes the world in very practical terms. They have lived a "calm and settled relationship" between "two rational and career-minded people." Alfred Jones, of course, points out that the project will be a hugely expensive flop. The sheik's belief is an allegory for the journey towards God. His wish to share the joys of fishing - with his own people may be an 'almost divine form of madness"; but the madness is cathcing. As the story unfolds in a morass of emails, letters and diary entries, the sheikh begins to work a spell. Under this influence Alfred Jones is converted to the possibility of the impossible. He is forced into the project and interacts with Harriet and the Sheikh, something amazing happens. Alfred devises solutions, and his anxieties give way to a sense of excitement. He also begins to fall in love with Harriet. This is a wonderful, enjoyable read with many fairy tale elements but a staggering ending.
As with all good satire, there is tragedy, a story of love and loss and another of love that never was. The author must have had a wonderful time lampooning the world of Tony Blair and his government. The parable of belief and its power is also introduced. I like to fly fish and the wonderful feeling of peace and togetherness with the world is indeed a part of the belief in the impossible. The lessons learned in the novel are ours to discuss and share. Along the way, we laugh a lot and we smile at the pompous Peter Maxwell of the Prime Minister's office.
"Fishing encompasses everything from the science of salmon spawning to the war in Iraq. But all these elements merely give structure to the story: a lovely musing on how risking it all - however much it may be perceived as foolish or ridiculous, can bring hope and faith and love to the most bleak of outlooks, and can render the most ordinary chap - if only briefly" DANEET STEFFENS
An extraordinary novel that surprises in its simplicity. Akin to the novel 'A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine' by Marina Lewycka.
Highly Recommended, prisrob 08-23-07