And he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Monday, June 4, 2012

An Angler's Book Review: The Snowfly, by Joseph Heywood.

A novel that was recommended to me... that I'm recommending to my readers -- especially if you love fly fishing.  Please continue reading for my full review.

There haven't been too many posts that I've written where I mention books that I've enjoyed.  I know I've mentioned a few in the past, such as "On the Run", and "A River Runs Through It", as well as various "How-To" books, especially regarding stripers and inshore saltwater fishing.  But rarely have I enjoyed a book so much that I feel compelled to recommend it to my fellow Angler-philes (as opposed to the Anglo-philes who are all aflutter over the Queen's "Diamond Jubilee", the celebration of her 60th year of her reign.  But I digress).

After I wrote my most recent post about fly fishing, and my love for it's art and simplicity, I got a message from a friend of mine from high school who writes a book blog.  She asked if I had ever read the novel, "The Snowfly", by Joseph Heywood.  I hadn't.  She strongly recommended it, saying she had been giving it to family and friends who enjoy fishing, for years.  I was intrigued.  I called our local library, and they had it.  I picked it up on my way home from work one evening, and was glad I did.  So here is my first official book review... and don't worry, Leslie, I'm not going to make this a habit and invade your turf that you cover so well with your Book Addict Blog.

If I had to characterize Heywood's novel, "The Snowfly" in one sentence, it would be something like, Nelson DeMille writes "Forrest Gump" in "A River Runs Through It."  How's that for three different styles.  Let me explain:

I'm not familiar with Joseph Heywood (though I'm now intrigued enough to read another of his novels).  But I do know Nelson DeMille.  DeMille writes in a number of styles, but often in first person, and often his stories involve international settings and intrigue -- check.  You've got that here with Heywood's book.

The protagonist, Bowie Rhodes grows up in Michigan, learns about trout fishing, and becomes a writer for UPI.  As a young "cub reporter", he is sent to Vietnam, and then England, and finally the Soviet Union, before going up to Canada, and then back to Michigan, while pursuing other writing endeavors.  Various spies, scientists, cops, and even the KGB all play a part in the web of suspense and mystery that become the plot of "The Snowfly."

While Winston Groom's novel, "Forrest Gump" is quite different than the movie made famous with Tom Hanks, it does describe a "special" young man who happens to be placed in a number of situations that were an important part of our history in the 1960's and '70's.  Rhodes is in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, in the UK during troubles between the IRA of Northern Ireland and England, and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.  And he even meets an internationally famous celebrity.

"A River Runs Through It", (the novella written by Norman MacLean) tells of a family, and it's passion for trout fishing in Montana, using very descriptive, even metaphysical language in its pages, as it describes the relationship between two brothers and the art that is fly fishing.  In fact, one critic (Chicago Tribune critic Alfred Kazin) wrote of the book that "there are passages here of physical rapture in the presence of unsullied, primitive America, that are as beautiful as anything in Thoreau and Hemingway."  I only point that out because of Hemingway....  And that's all I will say about that -- beside the fact that we all probably had to read his epic tale of "The Old Man and The Sea".

Throughout his novel, Heywood plants the seed, grows, weaves and intertwines Bowie's love for trout fishing all over the world (yes even in Vietnam), as well as his increasing obsession with the mystery that is ... the snowfly.  What is the snowfly?  Why do some men risk everything they have, and even die for it?  And is there any truth to the legend, and the monster trout that follow it, where ever, and when ever it so rarely hatches?

When Bowie is fishing, casting the various flies it takes to entice different kinds of trout that are rising below the surface under any number of waters around the world, the reader definitely feels like he is standing there with him, thanks to Heywood's description of the art and the sport that is fly fishing.  And we all wish we had Bowie's talent or gift for finding and catching fish -- even in waters previously unknown to him.

Add a little sex, love, political intrigue, murder, ongoing unanswered questions that even a persistent reporter can't get answers to, and colorful characters throughout the book from around the world, and you have over 450 pages, that when you come to its satisfying (and somewhat unexpected) ending, you feel as you often do at the end of a good book -- that you have gained, and just said goodbye to, a good friend.  I can't think of a better compliment for the author.

It's not a new book, as it was published back in 2000, so this review isn't anything cutting edge.  But I will say this:  if you enjoy fishing (which if you're reading my blog, you must) and you enjoy reading (which if you're reading my blog, you must), then I believe you will enjoy this book.  Go by your library today, and give yourself a treat this weekend.  And Leslie, if you have any other suggestions, I'm all ears (or eyes, as the case may be.)

Until next time,

Read on!


Postscript:  My next door neighbor is a retired former Marine, and U.S. Army colonel, who doesn't fish, and reads nothing but non-fiction.  Recently he was laid up for a few weeks, because he had both his hips replaced.  He came over one day, and asked if I could give him a beer (his wife wouldn't let him drink while he was on pain meds, so he had to sneak one if he wanted it -- some tough guy, huh).  During our conversation, he told me how bored he was.  I had the book on the table next to me, so I gave it to him and said to give it a shot.  He returned it a week later, and said how impressed he was.  He really enjoyed it.  It grabbed his attention early on, and that there were enough twists and turns in the plot -- especially towards the end, that it really kept his interest.  I can't use the salty language he used, but let's just say he was also impressed with Bowie's women and fishing skills....  So, for what it's worth, there's another objective opinion.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you liked it Dan! I had a feeling. I'll keep my eyes out for another great fishing book to keep you intrigued. I highly recommend Heywood's other books about a wildife cop in the U.P. of Michigan. We love them too. Try "The Voyage" by Philip Caputo for a great sea voyage book. Not fishing, but too good not to try. Enjoy!