This was a book club read, and I think we selected it after we’d been to the cinema together and seen the trailer for the movie of the book. Since we didn’t get round to seeing the movie, we read the book!
I enjoyed the first part of it, which is told in email correspondence between Dr Fred Jones, a fisheries scientist whose ideas of greatness lie with his paper (as yet unpublished) on caddis fly larvae, his wife, a bullying career woman for whom Fred is respectable enough as a husband without being troublesome or inconvenient. Then there is the project manager at a property firm whose main aim is to keep their rich client happy, and various of Fred’s bosses up the civil service chain through to the Prime Minister’s office (no 10).
I really enjoyed the lateral thinking to overcome the scientific barriers, the belief in the capacity of man to bring about great engineering works (if God wills it, if you prefer), and the way the concept changes from incredulity to a political tour de force. A good news story, in fact.
The author has created some very good characters through these email exchanges and diary entries. Unfortunately, he chose to move into interview mode with the mechanism of a public inquiry, thus moving it into flashback. The narrative of the interview responses didn’t sit well in the format, and it also told us that something big was going to go wrong, too soon. OK, we were left to guess what, but since I am allergic to self-congratulatory political spin (of which there was a lot), I was tempted to drop the book at the half way point, since I wasn’t really interested enough in whether the project worked, and certainly not interested in the outcomes for the characters.
For me, the best thing was about the project itself, both the salmon and the engineering, and the insights into the life of an extremely rich person who cares about the environment. I didn’t need the political shenanigans, although the book itself did, since that was the whole point of it. If only we could keep the politics out of life, we might get more things done. Would they be things that people would like to be done? Would we trash our rivers in our greed for new projects? I don’t know. Sorry, I have a public consultation to go to shortly on trashing some lovely countryside for some housing.
It was a fun story with far too much truth about the state of the world and its leaders, which former engineer and current salmon fisherman Paul Torday has brought out well. Dryly funny, especially if you like political satire and the space of wild places.