Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

This book by Paul Torday was the choice of reading group for May.  As I mentioned in my last post it was also one of the three books I took with me on holiday last week and in fact the only of the three which I finished.  There was a definite reason for this, which is that I not only took my library paperback, but also a five CD audio book of the same volume (unabridged).

I would definitely now say that having the book read to me did not detract from the reading, in fact in places it added something. On occasion I switched between reading the book on paper and listening to it and this felt quite seamless.  I had wondered if it would bother me to hear the lines of dialogue spoken rather than imagining the voices of the characters, but I had no problem with this.  There is a point where a radio interview is held, and having the voice of Andrew Marr as a radio four presenter definitely felt like a bonus.  I know audio books are expensive, but I was lucky because a friend already had this so I did not have to buy a copy.  It made the drive pass a lot more pleasantly and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

As for the actual book, well I would recommend it as a decent holiday read, but it is not great literature.  That does not mean the story is without it's merits though, I loved the observations on Arab culture although perhaps they were a little stereotypical.  More interesting was the exploration of politics and civil service.  This was very believable to me and quite entertaining.  The other entertainment was slightly unsavoury, in the form of an exemplary failing marriage which was exploited a little for comic effect I feel.

Lastly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a little for the keen fisherman here, although how authentic it is I cannot say.  It certainly made me imagine I could enjoy donning waders and fishing a stream in Scotland some day, but I think I shall save that for a future holiday!

Postscript - only since looking at the Wikipedia entry have I realised that my holiday and this book had quite so much in commmon! We went to Northumberland and apparently Paul Torday was a successful businessman there only turning to writing at the age of 59! I found that tremendously encouraging and would never have guessed, and what a coincidence that I was in Northumberland when I was reading the book!


  1. As the “friend” who loaned you the audio book of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen I’m delighted you enjoyed the audio format. I too have seldom found that it detracts from the reading or is an inferior read. The only occasions when I have struggled has been one or two books where either the readers voice has grated from the beginning or I have felt it to be entirely the wrong voice for the character/s or the subject matter. I know that the rnib talking book service from whom I get most of my books, although not this one, do go to a great deal of trouble to find the “right” sort of voice and many readers are actors who work for free or a minimal rate. As a book narrated by many different voices and points of view this was especially suited to the audio format I felt.

    I agree with you about the Arab characters being somewhat stereotyped although I felt most characters in the book suffered in the same way somewhat. For me the two main characters if I could say that, Dr Jones and Harriet were the most well rounded and least stereotyped voices in the book. I enjoyed how salmon fishing was so beautifully described so that I am left with more of a sense of what that particular sport can offer to people although I am not planning on donning any waders in the near future.

    I liked the rather dramatic and unexpected ending and if I am not giving too much away, the fact that no one was left with any neat or enviable conclusion to this episode in their lives. I think it may be a courageous author who is willing to leave us with rather inconclusive and messy endings to his story which nonetheless so much more reflect the reality of people’s lives far more than happy or comfortable conclusions do.

    annie on