“Salmon fishing in the Yemen” by Paul Torday; Phoenix Paperback, £7.99

In view of the Society’s forthcoming participation in the conference in Oman on the benefits of fish, this novel provides a light-hearted and satirical look at many of the issues relevant to the relationship between the UK government and the powerful in this part of the Arab world.

The author wittily addresses many of these that will be of some concern to some of our members today.  These include Government spin and sleaze; official expedience when dealing with rich Arab princes and denials about military involvement in Iraq and Iran.

The hero, a fisheries scientist, whose battles with UK government departments and their incompetence and duplicity will have real resonance with some of our members. Human frailty and the role of religious faith is highlighted in the interaction between two of the principle characters, an atheistic scientist and the rich Muslim sheik who employs him after his appointment is terminated by an unprincipled head of the government department that employed him.

Also addressed are the problems of work/life balance and the inadequate levels of pay for scientists when compared with other professionals of similar experience.  The author who spent considerable time in Oman and Scotland, where his passion is salmon fishing and love for both, provides a realistic background for much of the action.

This involves the attempts of the anglingophile and anglophile Yemeni Sheik to replicate the riverine environment of the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the Yemen: a somewhat unrealistic concept that was nevertheless backed by the UK government in the cause of Anglo-Arab relationships. The consequences of this policy form the basis of this cleverly written and often-amusing tale. It would make a suitable seasonal gift for your Christian, Muslim or Atheist friends.

Bob Lister