Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Novel by Paul Torday
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was a really interesting and well written novel that inspired belief of the impossible in the most realistic way. While one can argue that it lacked build-up and was scattered and hard to understand at points, this definitely drew me in. Since the novel was more difficult to get into, it pushed me even harder to read and appreciate the story. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an epistolary (one of my favorite techniques, but often the most terribly done) which included emails, letters, interviews, news clippings, etc, all surrounding the introduction of salmon fishing into the Yemen. The story circulates around two main characters, Alfred Jones and Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, along with several supporting characters such as the Sheik, Mary Jones, and Peter Maxwell, all of whose stories unfold amidst a very unusual project.
It is hard to give a proper review of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I could comment on the plot and climax, but it seems upon finishing the story that it wasn’t really the point. In Torday’s novel we are introduced to very honest and likeable characters, although all are entirely different, and their journey throughout the story is the remarkable part. I immediately fell in love with the Sheik and actually felt his faith and wisdom reaching me through the pages. During scenes with the Sheik I almost felt like I was reading an inspirational, self-help guide rather than fiction. Also, since the epistolary technique was so well done, it really made these characters and their situations come to life.
The love aspect of this novel was probably the most interesting in terms of character building, the Salmon Yemen Project (as named in the novel) moves the story along, but in the end there isn’t much I can say. What is meant to be the most climactic point in the novel (the Sheik’s first time fishing for salmon in the Yemen) is actually kind of uneventful and, to be frank, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is boring… but it is boring in the most remarkable way possible. I understand that doesn’t make sense, but I really found myself attached to this story although it wasn’t traditionally of my interest. I would suggest this novel to someone looking for a deep, stirring beach-type read that isn’t afraid of a story that lacks action.
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” – Directed by Lasse Hallström
When I read that this movie was labeled a “romantic comedy” I was very taken aback, for I found this story to be neither very comedic nor romantic. It was merely satirical and had a few elements of romance thrown in the mix but I would never consider its story to be a “romantic comedy.” Obviously, this was a red flag.
As with almost every intellectually stimulating book out there, filmmakers got their hands on it and turned it into a backwashed version of the book. Separately, the novel and the movie standalone as totally different works. For me, the novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is something that I would read of my own volition. The film “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is not something that I would typically go see or even enjoy.
There are some serious changes in the adaptation, particularly the ending. I felt that what happened in this film completely depleted the integrity of the story. The Sheik lives, the salmon strive in the water, Alfred and Harriet end up together. Indeed, the underlying concept of the story is that the impossible IS theoretically possible, but it just seemed a little cheesy to me. The performances by Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas (yet another change – Maxwell was a woman. Go figure.), and Amr Waked were great and if it weren’t for their stellar performances the movie would have (most likely) been terrible.
All of this being said, it was a good movie. Rather long and not very funny for a “romantic comedy” but it was good. Nothing to write home about. I did not enjoy the changes made to the story and the Hollywood happy ending which strayed from the book, but if I had not read it I would have probably liked “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” much more.
Mook Rating – ★★ 1/2