Dr Alfred Jones has many reasons to be content with his life. His latest paper Effects of Increased Water Acidity on the Caddis Fly Larva’ looks set to cause a stir on the pages of Trout & Salmon, his job as a fisheries scientist is satisfactory, and he and his wife, Mary, have just celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary for which she gave him a replacement electric toothbrush.
So why does he feel as though something is missing?
When he is asked to become involved in a project to create a salmon river in the Highlands of the Yemen, Fred rejects the idea as absurd. But the proposal catches the eye of several senior British politicians, who feel it might distract the media’s attention from the less welcome stories coming out of the Middle East. It’s not long before the wheels of government start spinning, and the publicity-savvy Prime Minister is talking about the project on television. Fred finds himself forced to set aside his research and instead figure out how to fly ten thousand salmon to a desert country and persuade them to swim there.
The project is the brainchild of a Yemeni sheikh: a devout and wealthy man, whose love of salmon fishing and whose fervent, unwavering conviction that the impossible can be made possible, eventually, and astonishingly, inspires Fred, overpowering all his rational objections and infuriating his wife.
When Fred meets Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, the sheikh’s elegant and beautiful land agent, the cracks that have begun to form in his carefully managed existence grow even wider, and as they both embark on an extraordinary journey of faith and fishing the diffident Dr Jones will discover a sense of belief, and a capacity for love, and for heroism, that surprises himself, and all who know him.
In Torday's winningly absurdist debut, Dr. Alfred Jones feels at odds with his orderly life as a London fisheries scientist and husband to the career-driven Mary, with whom he shares a coldly dispassionate relationship. Just as Mary departs for a protracted assignment in Geneva, Alfred gets consulted on a visionary sheik's scheme to introduce salmon, and salmon-angling, to the country of Yemen. Alfred is deeply skeptical (salmon are cold-water fish that spawn in fresh water; Yemen is hot and largely desert), but the project gains traction when Peter Maxwell, the prime minister's director of communications, seizes on it as a PR antidote to negative press related to the Iraq war. Alfred is pressed by his superiors to meet with the sheik's real estate rep, the glamorous young Harriet, and embarks on a yearlong journey to realize the sheik's vision of spiritual peace through fly-fishing for the people of Yemen. British businessman and angler Torday captures Alfred's emerging humanity, Maxwell's antic solipsism, Mary's calculating neediness and Harriet's vulnerability, presenting their voices through diaries, e-mails, letters and official interviews conducted after the doomed venture's surprisingly tragic outcome. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.