July’s meeting of the Maida Vale Library Reading Group discussed Salmon fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. Not, as the title might suggest, a practical manual on an esoteric branch of angling, but a mordant satire on contemporary British politics and the culture of spin.
The chief protagonist is Dr Alfred Jones, a middle-aged government fisheries scientist with a stalled career and a failing marriage. Forced by his craven head of department to take on a doomed but politically expedient project to introduce Atlantic salmon into the Arabian desert, he learns to manoeuvre his way through the corridors of power and money, in the process acquiring more than a little insight into the nature of faith and love.
The group enjoyed the author’s deft use of multiple character perspectives and spoof narrative techniques (letters, emails, Hansard reports and public enquiry transcripts) of Paul Torday’s first novel, with its population of memorable characters and splendidly drawn political archetypes.
The group meets for the next time on 2 September at 5.15pm, when we will be discussing Philippa Gregory’s historical novel centering on Mary, Queen of Scots, The other queen.