Yes, this book, as the title suggests, is about the sublimely ridiculous.
Dr Alfred Jones, a fisheries scientist, is stagnating – he’s slowly realizing that he’s fairly low in the pecking order, even at the relatively unimportant Fisheries Institute – and at the same time his personal life has come to a cross roads – it’s very clear his career minded, success driven wife has other priorities (other fish to fry, if I can be allowed the pun!). Then one day he receives instructions to help introduce Scottish salmon and the sport of salmon fishing in the Yemen wadis. Of course it’s a ludicrous, near impossible, foolish task. But then the PM’s office weighs in, highlighting the ‘environmental message’ they would be sending, by achieving a project like this. What he leaves unsaid of course, is the very important economic ties it will allow England to forge with Yemen, while pushing bad news from Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia out of the British press. And so Fred is pressed into service.
The story is then told through a series of emails, memos, newspaper articles, and even intercepted messages, each message highlighting a different aspect of absurdity, but in the most solemn of tones. Slowly, Alfred gets emotionally drawn into the project and the story ultimatelly builds up to a big climax.
The author uses this rather unlikely backdrop to satirise everything we’ve ever found absurd – press spinmasters, political double talk, reality games shows, consumerism and even governmental espionage. Torday has a wonderfully subtle style and has an ability to poke fun at institutions without bludgeoning you on the head.
Fred is an improbable hero, mild mannered, unimaginative, and somewhat bland at first. But as the book progresses, you can’t help but develop an affection for this earnest scientist, and root for his project to succeed.
I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the title, and ended up being quite charmed by the unique story.
Maya always has three books going at the same time - a different book for every mood. She loves exploring new authors, but every now and then she sinks back into the comfort of old favourites like murder mysteries and Regency romances. A corporate butterfly, Maya lives and works in Bangalore, India.
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