Read The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy Online


From the author of the critically acclaimed biographies Diana Mosley and The Viceroy's Daughters comes a fascinating, hugely entertaining account of the Victorian women who traveled halfway around the world on the hunt for a husband.By the late nineteenth century, Britain's colonial reign seemed to know no limit—and India was the sparkling jewel in the Imperial crown. ManyFrom the author of the critically acclaimed biographies Diana Mosley and The Viceroy's Daughters comes a fascinating, hugely entertaining account of the Victorian women who traveled halfway around the world on the hunt for a husband.By the late nineteenth century, Britain's colonial reign seemed to know no limit—and India was the sparkling jewel in the Imperial crown. Many of Her Majesty's best and brightest young men departed for the Raj to make their careers, and their fortunes, as bureaucrats, soldiers, and businessmen. But in their wake they left behind countless young ladies who, suddenly bereft of eligible bachelors, found themselves facing an uncertain future.With nothing to lose and everything to gain, some of these women decided to follow suit and abandon their native Britain for India's exotic glamor and—with men outnumbering women by roughly four to one in the Raj—the best chance they had at finding a man.Drawing on a wealth of firsthand sources, including unpublished memoirs, letters, photographs, and diaries, Anne de Courcy brings the incredible world of "the Fishing Fleet," as these women were known, to life. In these sparkling pages, she describes the glittering whirlwind of dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas, tiger shoots, and palatial banquets that awaited in the Raj, all geared toward the prospect of romance. Most of the girls were away from home for the first time, and they plunged headlong into the heady dazzle of expatriate social life; marriages were frequent.However, after the honeymoon many women were confronted with a reality that was far from the fairy tale they'd been chasing. With her signature diligence and sensitivity, de Courcy looks beyond the allure of the Raj to tell the real stories of these marriages built on convenience and unwieldy expectations. Wives were whisked away to distant outposts with few other Europeans for company. Transplanted to isolated plantations and remote towns, they endured heat, boredom, discomfort, illness, and motherhood removed from familiar comforts—a far cry from the magical world they were promised upon arrival.Rich with drama and color, The Fishing Fleet is a sumptuous, utterly compelling real-life saga of adventure, romance, and heartbreak in the heyday of the British Empire....

Title : The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj
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ISBN : 9780062290076
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
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The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj Reviews

  • Petra X
    2019-06-07 11:14

    This is so boring I don't know how much more of it I can take. It started off quite well talking about the girls sent out to India to find husbands or visit friends or family. The descriptions of the voyages were quite interesting. The book jumps all over the place back and forth in time which again was interesting when it was about sailing as the ships changed from bare cabins that had to be furnished by the passengers to steam/sail and the shortened route through the Suez Canal.The Suez Canal was built by a French company under the aegis of Ismail Pasha, the ruler of Egypt (until removed by the British). The British were opposed to the Canal, seeing their own trade routes and empire interests threatened by this French initiative. They officially condemned the project as one of slavery and encouraged rebellion among the workers. They conveniently forgot that 80,000 Egyptian forced-labourers had died in building the British railroad through Egypt just a few years earlier. And the entire world seems to have condemned slavery by Europeans in the Americas but totally forgotten that the Arabs were not only among the main dealers of slaves in Africa but used slave labour themselves. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania only finally criminalised slavery in 2007 and up to 20% of its population are traditional slaves, that is property. (Modern slavery is defined as the possession or control of a person with the intention of depriving them of all rights and exploiting them for labour. Here is a list of countries with the most slaves today. I have read two books of traditional slavery in Sudan, Slave: My True Story (she was later enslaved in London, not a mile away from my flat) and Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America.Back to the book. There are a great deal of stories of the girls who went out. What really has me bored is the very long passages, chapters-full, that the author quotes word for word from diaries of girls whose fathers are the de facto rulers of India or of high enough social standing to be invited to these aristocratic parties. There are long descriptions of clothes they wore, their jewellery, their friends' clothes and jewellery, and what their parents wore and their jewellery, not to mention the men resplendent in dress uniforms. Occasionally someone does something like pick flowers or get new dresses or their is a description of a train ride in ultra-luxury. I think the author was impressed herself by the lives of these very rich and entitled (and after a title) girls. It is as boring as reading anyone's diary when they consist not of reflection or discussion but who wore what and where they went and how many boys there were. The book isn't badly written but nothing happens. Turn anywhere and there are more descriptions of clothes and parties and young men. The author does write of the apartheid imposed by the British after they took over India from the East India Company, but other than the Indians were servants or rajahs and both equally unacceptable as husbands for English girls. I would have liked a bit more meat on the bones of the social life of girls in the time of the Raj but it's not that kind of book and I can't keep my attention on it. So I've read nearly half of it and that's enough. I used to have this compulsion to finish books, but not now.

  • Caroline
    2019-06-02 17:05

    I thought this was a stunning read. It takes us back to the days of the Raj in India, and the 'fishing feet' of young women leaving Britain to go husband-hunting in the extraordinary world of 19th century white and male-dominated India. Society there was a strange mix of toughness, stoicism, glamour, romance, boredom, rigid protocols and snobbery. There were many who had an intense loyalty to the country, especially those born there. India definitely got under the skin of many of the British who lived there - in spite of the harshness found in many of their situations. There were a lot of people of the Raj who fell in love with India. There were some huge issues though - people who felt they had to send their children to school in England when aged about five. A terrible wrench, especially for those unable to afford trips to see their children during their schooling. British society in India was also massively obsessed with hunting and sport. (Partly perhaps because men in the army were not allowed to marry until they were thirty.) It was an intensely male society. Heat was another issue. Although many people went and spent the summer in hills stations, it could not always be avoided. Herewith an extract that shows some of the hardships that people had to put up with in summer (view spoiler)["What struck new arrivals first was the heat, sometimes like a scorching blast from a hot oven, sometimes sticky and damp...As well as stifling in flannel underwear, women invariably wore corsets, and it wasn't until the 1920s that cotton dresses and light underwear made their appearance.In Delhi Week, the cold-weather season ended. On 12 March the men changed into white and the hot weather officially began, with the temperature gradually increasing up to a maximum of around 45 degrees C (or 130 degrees F) in the shade. "We are beginning to feel the real heat" wrote Lady Canning in 1856. "Any attempt to go out, even in a carriage, makes one grasp, and dissolve immediately, and an open window or door lets in a flood of hot air, as though one were passing the mouth of a foundry," wrote Lord Canning. Other seasonal hazards were snakes and monkeys. Lady Canning wrote that in her bedroom were lizards, running about the floor, and bats."In Pakistan (then the Punjab), in May, June and July is a hell of a heat. In August the monsoon arrives, bringing relief from the high temperatures - but also so much humidity that the human body has to exist in a state of sweat."The summer was the season when frogs croaked, cicadas sawed away relentlessly and jackals howled... It was the time of year when rabies was most prevalent. For human too the hot weather was intensely debilitating: boils, eczema, infections ad fevers were common. Prickly heat was almost impossible to avoid and although not health-destroying could be appalling unpleasant and painful. "Sitting on thorns would be agreeable by comparison", wrote one lieutenant, "the infliction in that case being local; now, not a square inch of your body but is tingling and smarting with shooting pains."As the temperature rose, so insect life increased. Lady Canning remarked that her dinner table in Calcutta "was covered in creatures as thickly as a drawer of them in a museum". Sometimes floors seemed alive with beetles; Lady Canning described huge cockroaches ('as big as mice') in her bedroom, 'some move away, side by side, like pairs of coach horses. There were flying ants and bluebottles, green flies and moths. Stinkbugs, the tiny black shield bugs with a horrible, penetrating odour, arrived in their thousands. One earwig-like insect, the blister-fly, could settle on people without their being aware of it, leaving a large and painful blister on the skin, if crushed while removing it.Slippers and shoes had to be shaken before being put on in case a scorpion had climbed inside. There were hornets that could give a powerful and painful sting. "We had to watch out when playing tennis, as poisonous black bees hung in great clusters from the porch" wrote Betsy Anderson.In the hot, damp weather, with its extreme humidity, mould destroyed books and shoes, or rotted dresses so that they hung in strips. White ants gnawed at the foundations of houses. These, properly called termites, could eat through a whole trunkful of clothes in a single night, the only wood that can withstand their ravages is teak, one reason for the prevalence of teak furniture in the Raj.Sleeping outside, under a mosquito net, was the only alleviation. People tried everything, from dining with a block of ice under the table (harvested in the cold weather and buried in pits until needed), to damping pillows, sheets and the screens across the windows.Then the monsoons arrived. Monica Campbell-Martin wrote "The days grow hotter. But the clouds pile up in thunderous beauty. You breathe air that is a dank and heavy substance, almost tangible. Around you everything is still. Everything living thing seems waiting. Each night after each burning day seems waiting too, in deathly quiet."Suddenly, with a crash, the sky disintegrates in a vast avalanche of water. It rains for about three and a half months with intervals of hours, or of a few days..." (hide spoiler)]Then there were problems with malaria and other diseases, with people sometimes living hundreds of miles away from a doctor or dentist. Living arrangements were often very crude, and the boredom for married women could be quite overwhelming. They were amazingly tough though, and seemed to make the transition from London social butterflies to pioneer wives with little complaint.There is very little in this book about Indian people - because that isn't the focus of the book, but there are one or two snips that hint at some of the awful results of colonialism. (view spoiler)[During the British Raj, India experienced some of the worst famines ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876-8, in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died and the Indian famine of 1899-1900, in which 1.25 to 10 million people perished. The main reason was the British insistence of Indian farmers growing jute or cotton - to facilitate trade - rather than food crops such as rice and wheat. In times of shortage, this policy was catastrophic.(hide spoiler)]Anne de Courcy writes well, and I found this book fascinating and entertaining. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the Raj.I don't know how to do the *updates* thing on Goodreads, so will end by doing an update here. Real life has become very busy. I therefore won't be using Goodreads for a while. My good wishes to all of you, and I shall see you when things get quieter.

  • Tiffany
    2019-06-17 16:45

    While Lady Mary and her sisters were swanning round Downton Abbey in their prettiest frocks and sighing at the dearth of eligible bachelors, thousands of brave young women packed their bags, said a lifelong goodbye to their families, and shipped off to India, the exotic jewel in Mother’s England’s colonial crown. Rather than resign themselves to spinsterhood, with their only prospects as governess or live-in companion to some ailing wealthy widow, these women headed off half way round the world on an ambitious husband hunt. The journey itself was adventure enough. Passengers faced many months at sea, with seasickness and “dressing for dinner” often the least of their worries. What they found when they finally disembarked was a steamy, foreign, glittering world of dances, banquets, tiger shoots, and polo parties. Not to mention hoards of uniformed men, gasping for female company. Anne de Courcy’s Fishing Fleet is named for the nickname given to the thousands of young women who went out to India from the mid-nineteenth century up until World War Two. Clearly a vast amount of research has gone into the book and at times, it can be a little dry as de Courcy rattles off facts and figures, dates and statistics, with their attendant footnotes. That quibble aside, de Courcy is a brilliant researcher and historian. The most enjoyable sections are the anecdotal accounts of women who lived the life, based on correspondence, diaries and interviews. This is where the history comes alive and the women get to tell their tales. A Fishing Fleet girl had to be hardy and uncomplaining. For all of India’s charms, there was much to endure: bats in the bedroom, cholera, thieving monkeys, smallpox, corsets and crinolines in unbearably hot weather, and crushing boredom. Outside of the social season, there was little for a married woman to do, once she had successfully caught herself a husband. Children were sent “home” to England to be educated, usually not visiting or being visited by their parents for a number of years. The daughters, heads brimming with childhood memories of the sights and smells of India, often then returned eagerly as young women looking to find husbands of their own. The lure of the Raj was strong.Not a quick or light read, The Fishing Fleet cleverly conjures up an utterly foreign world of whirlwind romances in colonial times.

  • Beth Bonini
    2019-05-19 15:52

    This book accompanied me on a recent trip to Dubai. I was seeking winter sun, not a husband, but the exotic locale and pleasant-but-slightly-stultifying routine (breakfast, swimming, tennis, tea, cocktails) resonated with the subject matter. It was a good beach book: engrossing to a point, but not so compelling that one couldn't happily abandon it for other entertainment. I enjoyed learning more about life in colonial India, but felt that the book was too repetitive in some ways and too sketchy in others. The author mostly uses diaries and letters to flesh out the story of British wives in the Raj, but we only get glimpses into any one particular life. The subject matter piqued my interest, but this particular history doesn't really satisfy the curiosity it raises -- at least in this particular reader.

  • Mikey B.
    2019-06-10 13:07

    The title of this book refers to British women who went husband-hunting in India during the days of Empire. They were mostly successful as there were far more men (British of course) than women in India.Many of these women were born in India – sent back to England to be educated and in their late teenage years would return to India to marry. Marriage was their goal. These were “Upper Class” women and educated. Sadly in that era it was difficult for a woman to find gainful and professional employment (like being a government administrator, a doctor...) – or said otherwise it was easier for them to find a husband in India.At the beginning of building the Empire it was suitable for a British man to find a partner (and perhaps marry) an Indian woman. But due to innate racism this was forbidden at the start of the 1800’s. There was outright discrimination against children of mixed marriages.I don’t know whether it was the intention of the author but one comes away with a very dim view of “Empire” – of 200,000 or so Englishman lording over a country of hundreds of millions. These English managers were totally separated from the vast populace. The women (wives) would only mingle with the many servants they had.There are many interesting sketches, mostly of the 20th century, of the women who went to India. Some lived in luxury and others in isolated areas where they had to fend for themselves – coping with tropical diseases, with large insects scurrying about, snakes, and rats – in their houses!The book can be uneven and repetitive. There are too many descriptions of clothes worn and the accompanying jewelry (Chapter 8 on the viceroys’ daughter is a prime example). Gandhi and the massacre at Amritsar are mentioned only once, Nehru not at all. Admittedly this is not a book on the history of India, but these women just seemed so cut-off from the millions surrounding them (the author does acknowledge this). It would have been interesting to know what they thought of India. Many of these women do come off as being superficial considering the education they received. Their diaries are replete with the nightly dances they attended; filtering through the herd of men who were trying to bestow affection (and more) unto them. It was standard that the men would only marry after the age of thirty (Empire rules) – some of the women (girls) were still in their upper teens.As per the author there was very little of pre and extra-marital affairs because it was such a closed society – so people would talk and reputations tumble. Still this book is an interesting view on British Imperialism.

  • Jessica Leight
    2019-06-17 12:48

    I found this book extremely disappointing, and for devoted readers of the Sunday Times book review: be warned that the book does not live up to its billing there! The premise is an interesting one: to explore the lives and personal histories of British women who traveled to India to marry British officials and officers stationed there under the Raj. But ultimately the book is no more than a disjointed collection of anecdotes, and a repetitive collection at that. While the chapters ostensibly have themes, there was little relation between the themes and the content; every chapter repeats more or less the same points. Some of the personal stories were interesting, but there was no broader framework; particularly glaring as the absence of any critical evaluation of the role played by these women, and especially their husbands, in a colonial system that was unjust and exploitative. It's an apology for colonialism of sorts, wrapped in a layer of nineteenth century gossip.

  • Libby
    2019-06-06 17:13

    They came every year, usually arriving in the great port cities of Bombay, Madras or Calcutta. Well into the 20th century, just the ocean voyage to get there was a dangerous and risky business; but most of these young English ladies would tell you that what they left behind might be riskier. These young women had a goal in mind. They came to India to find a husband. In the days when Britannia ruled the waves and took up "the White Man's burden" there was only one function for a lady to fulfill. Ladies were destined to become wives and mothers. A lady who did not wed might become a governess or a paid companion, but these jobs were ill paid and little better than endless servitude. A young woman who hoped for a comfortable life must get herself a husband and the richer and more distinguished the better. If she failed to find a spouse in England, her best chance lay in India.For a wild variety of reasons, many of the best and brightest young men chose to go to India to make their fortunes. There were military, governmental and diplomatic posts begging for talented younger sons to fill them. A relatively young man might look for promotions, better pay and more promising social position. By the time he was nearing thirty and thinking of marriage, he would have something to offer an English lady. But there were four unmarried men to every English girl, thus the attraction for "the Fishing Fleet." A young woman might look forward to a season of house parties, hunting parties, dances, dinner parties, polo matches, card parties, amateur theatrics, costume parties, tennis, golf and swimming parties. And throughout this giddy season, she would have the opportunity to talk to, dance with and flirt with a lot of different men. Anne de Courcy uses the letters and journals of young women who did travel to India for a husband. They had many reasons, differing reactions to India's culture, climate and people, and their futures varied but they all shared their memories with their children and the families they left in England. De Courcy relates their experiences in a lively fashion, but with great warmth and sympathy for these very young women, thrust into a foreign land and a strange culture. I found this book fascinating and compelling. I believe it would greatly appeal to those who enjoy tales of the British Raj, Indian history and Victorian colonization.

  • Caroline
    2019-06-11 12:09

    The British Raj, stretching from 1858 when the Crown took over management of India from the East India Company, to Independence in 1947, is very much a story of the British Empire at its height, and as such, rightly or wrongly, has always evoked a particular kind of nostalgic glamour - elephants and howdahs, maharajahs, tiger hunts at dawn, polo games and gymkhanas, brilliantly-clad officers and jewel-bedecked ladies at the Club. It was also an intensely masculine world, populated by soldiers and members of the ICS, Indian Civil Service, a world where men outnumbered women four to one. As a result, in an era where it was the height of any respectable woman's ambition to marry and marry well, it was seen as an ideal place to 'catch a husband'.Many of the women who embarked for India, the 'Fishing Fleet' as they were known, were not new to India. Many had family members already living out there - brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins - and many were returning to their families after being sent to England for an education. The entire social set-up of life in many of the big cities in India seemed set-up for the prospect of marriage - young men often stationed in remote hill stations and outposts would have few opportunities to meet young women, and when they came down to Madras, Delhi or Calcutta there would be balls and dances and picnics every night, where the men flocked around the newly-arrived young women.But married life was often a great contrast to the pleasures and excitement of courting - many of these young girls, often straight from school and married after whirlwind romances, would find themselves stationed dozens if not hundreds of miles away from 'civilisation', no electricity, no running water, no clubs and parties, sometimes in unstable regions, with husbands who often spent all day outside, leaving their young wives with little to occupy themselves.De Courcy has written a number of books focusing on young women of a certain class and station, the débutante generation, one might say. She has a real flair for narrative and a deep understanding of the kinds of lives these women led, the roles that were laid out for them and the real courage it often took to balance lives of glamour and exoticism and romance with the often harsh realities of married life in India. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it's really awakened my interest in the era of the British Raj. I think I'll look out for her other books as well.

  • Gayle
    2019-05-23 16:45

    This was a present from my mother-in-law, who had presumably seen a review somewhere (although she did say she had mistakenly thought it was fiction!) and not the sort of book I would ordinarily pick up. Therefore I had been putting it off since I thought it might be a 'difficult' read. I couldn't have been more wrong - purely enchanting! It describes the life of young women going out to India in the days of the Raj to find husbands since the number of men to women was extremely advantageous for them. The life could be one long social round depending on where they ended up and in fact seemed even more rigid with social niceties than Victorian or Edwardian Britain but on the negative side, they had to cope with the disease and the climate. A very interesting read, which is now prompting me to consider picking up Jewel in the Crown or Passage to India and reflect further.

  • Rebecca
    2019-06-11 12:04

    I received The Fishing Fleet, Husband Hunting in the Raj as a Christmas gift - Thank you Jo! - and couldn't wait to sneak off to my favorite reading spot and crack the spine of this delicious book by Anne De Courcy.I've always been fascinated by the British Empire. You had American women going on husband expeditions in the UK. is an excellent read.There were women and men traveling to Africa, setting up farms, and communities, and getting into a lot of mischief. and .And then you had the Raj. Even the name conjures up images of exotic locales and languid evenings sipping cocktails with women wearing their best pearls. The Englishman went over to India because it was literally the most exquisite jewel in the British Empire. They went over to reform and, in some ways, conquer. But I think the British were the ones conquered by India. It seeped into their blood and no matter the challenges, for there more many, they could never shake the longing for their life there once they were back in England. The marriage market in England was bleak and if you were a woman of marriageable age with no prospects then you and your family might consider buying passage to India. There the women had a plethora of choice males to pick from. I don't mean to sound crass with that sentence, but it was a market of men looking for women of their own class to marry. In that time a woman either married, became a governess, or lived on the charity of her family. I love the quotes and comments about the women who traveled over to India. Can you imagine? Traveling across the sea and not knowing what you'd find? Knowing you might not see your family again for years, or maybe never. I can't. Or once you've married, knowing that your children will be sent back to English boarding schools? I could go on and on about my love of this book and the historical period it covers. So if you have an interest, please pick up this book, because it is a gem.

  • Julie Goucher
    2019-05-30 10:49

    When the author was undertaking her research we did correspond rather briefly, but my interest regarding my ancestral links to India was out of the time frame for Anne's book.I waited rather eagerly for the book to be published. Once it hit the shelves of my local library I managed to grab the book and then quietly enjoy it.The book looks at women who migrated to India looking for a husband during the period of the mid 19th Century until 1947, when India gained it's Independence.I loved the colour of the cover which for me set the tone of the book. I enjoyed the depth of the research, which was gathered from letters and memoirs of the time and the focus of the book.There is a suitable explanation of why the women were there, and why they risked travelling the globe to find a husband, but there was little detail on how the women adapted to the change in culture and their experiences. The author further explores the processes in India at this time, the bureaucracy of India and mixed raced children and how they were viewed.Despite all that, I was a little disappointed. There is little scope given to how these women coped, not only with the country and culture, but also how they experienced married life with the men they met in India. I felt as though the author ran out of steam with the subject matter before the end of the book.I enjoyed it, but it could have been better.

  • Brianne Moore
    2019-05-26 13:06

    A lot has been written about India during the Raj: about the East India Company and the complicated politics and the men who ran things and fought for and against it. But there are few books out there about the women who went to India and accompanied those men to the cities and far-flung outposts and plantations, bringing with them a little bit of Britain and a lot of British can-do just-get-on-with-it spirit. The Fishing Fleet is about those women. Ostensibly, it’s a history of the ladies who, having struck out on the marriage market in Britain, boarded ship in England and headed out to India, where the high men-to-women ratio pretty much guaranteed a proposal within months, if not weeks. But Anne De Courcy’s social history is about much more than that: it’s also about what life—specifically, domestic and social life—was like for the British of the Raj. As it trips nimbly along from the travails of the voyage out through courtship and marriage, the book vividly illustrates, via first-hand reports, everything from elaborate tiger hunting expeditions with bejewelled maharajas to the loneliness and hardship of life ‘up-country’, where neighbours were few and far between and conditions primitive, to say the least. De Courcy, who clearly admires these women (rightly—most of them had to be pretty tough), covers a lot of ground, even diving into the complex (and racist) social structure that existed in India at the time. Chapters covering a broad range of Fishing Fleet girls are broken up by a few that highlight the romances of specific women: the ultra-privileged daughter of the Viceroy, a woman who spent her whole life hiding her Eurasian ancestry, and a true daughter of the Raj who returned to her Indian birthplace after an English education and promptly fell in love.Bottom Line: I found this one to be highly addictive, even though I’ve never been particularly interested in Raj history before (I have been long interested in women’s social history, though, so that certainly helped). It’s an entertaining, detailed look at life in India from the women’s perspective. If there’s one quibble, it’s that the focus is almost entirely on middle and upper-class women (particularly the upper middle class), so if you’re hoping for a book that covers all of society (or the lives of Indian women), this isn’t necessarily the one for you.

  • Maire Flannery
    2019-05-24 11:50

    I have a strong interest in the British Empire, as my birth country Ireland was a colony, so our narratives are tied. I love the Indian subcontintent as I lived there for a few years. And romance? Love it! In spite of the very practical goals of the girls who went to India to get husbands and were determined not to 'return empty' - the unkind name given to those who chose to come back without marrying - there is Romance in plenty to be found in 'the Fishing Fleet'.I enjoyed these mini biographies, for that is what they are. The Raj was little Britain in India, and De Courcy does a lovely job of taking the reader on a trip back in time.Protocols and precedence was even more important in the Raj than in England, and often bordered upon the ridiculous. I enjoyed the story of the two American girls who decided to get a little fun out of this, to the embarrassment of their hosts.Racism of course was pervasive in the colonies. In order to rule, all the top jobs had to be kept for Britishmen. The saddest aspect of this exclusivity in the Raj was the price that the children had to pay. It was imperative that they grow up British, so when they reached age 6 or so, they were sent 'home' for an education - 'home' to cold boarding schools, often with nowhere to go for the holidays...many did not see their parents for 10 years, at which time the girls rejoined their families as part of the 'Fishing Fleet'. They married, had children and the cycle repeated.India is a magnificent country, and I loved the very expressive descriptions sent in letters 'home'. In the days before color film or even color photography, these writings brought India to life for the relatives in England. This kind of writing is in danger of being lost when you can transmit a picture on your cellphone to anywhere in the world, and I appreciated the vivid paragraphs penned by lonely young wives upcountry in Kashmir or Assam while their men were out on field trips, and though they had a houseful of Indian servants, their nearest English neighbors, and therefore their nearest company, might be miles away. Worth reading!

  • Johanne
    2019-06-16 16:05

    Car crash history - or how to write history for UKIP nostalgists and the Daily Mail. I think this is one of the most unanalytical / unquestioning history books I have ever read. All about gels going orf to the raj and surviving the tiger hunt. Really - well not quite that bad but almost. I would have abandoned it but I continued in a sort of horrified fascination. It is a litany of the lives of young middle-class women who were shipped out to India to find a husband. Their lives largely merge into one and even across a hundred plus years there doesn't seem to be much difference either in events or attitudes. So they go out on a boat in there late teens or early twenties where they meet some jolly nice men but largely its just social, then they arrive in India where all the single men come down from remote points flock round these young women and select the one they want on what to contemporary eye seem often to be the flimsiest grounds and the briefest acquaintance. As being an old maid is a terrible thing these naive innocent women then spend their days producing children and leading otherwise vacuous lives whilst the men go and do manly things (usually involving controlling the natives or killing animals). Not a mention of a single one doing anything that is of any use except to the anglo-indian society, lots of mention of dresses jewels and social engagements. The issue of interracial relationships is touched on only briefly to explain how they were simply not done and how a family could be stained for generations!, There is no comment on the exploitation of the people, the land, or any consideration of the consequences of that whole period and its impact on subsequent history of India, UK etc. i am sure there is a fascinating book to be written about women in india in this period but this isn't it. meanwhile I'll stick to William Dalrymple

  • Lauren K
    2019-06-16 14:07

    3.5 starsWhen I requested a copy of The Fishing Fleet in the Raj for some reason I thought it was a fiction story, rather it’s a non-fictional account of the husband-hunting phenomena of the 19th century when the British infiltrated the Raj.British soldiers were residing in a male-dominated setting and so women were sent out on boats to snap up a husband (a.k.a The Fishing Fleet), with men outnumbering women the ladies had plenty of options! But it wasn’t all fun and games, many of the British women who married men in the Raj had to deal with many separations, losses and at times isolation. They were often apart from their husbands due to his work duties and once their children reached school age they were sent back to England to obtain an education.Anne de Courcy provides a voice for these women via authentic diary entries and data of the time. At times the women’s observations of the foreign land were fascinating and at other times were quite offensive- a time where racial prejudice was distinctive among the white towards the Indians.De Courcy carefully provides an objective account of the women of the Fishing Fleet and doesn’t get into the ethical or moral issues pertaining to the invasion. I found myself empathising for the natives, India (a.k.a the Raj) as some of the diary entries revealed narrow-minded women who lacked cultural awareness and appreciation. I also have a bit of a soft spot for India since I visited this amazing country recently.The Fishing Fleet was an interesting historical interpretation about the husband-hunting prodigies which I had never heard of prior to picking up this book. I would love to read a fictional story inspired by the Raj setting during this time.

  • Clare
    2019-05-28 18:09

    Malaria, dengue fever, cholera, blistering heat, monsoons and snakes were just a few of the perils of life in India during the Raj. Yet, many women left England to spend a year in that country with relatives or friends in order to find a husband. Most were successful due to the fact that the men outnumbered the women by quite a percentage. Once married, the lady would still have to contend with all the attendant disadvantages of living in India, but most were instilled with the British comportment of having a 'stiff upper lip' and went about their lives without complaining. Along with finding out all about this aspect of husband-hunting it was also amazing to hear how the English seem to bring all the ceremony, culture and manners of their native land to whatever country they are living in even when it might be easier to discard some of the pomp and rigidity of the times in order to live more harmoniously with their surroundings. All in all, this was a fascinating read.

  • Val
    2019-06-14 18:09

    The style of the book is gossipy and anecdotal, which makes it entertaining to read. The content and context are superficial; this is not attempting to be a history book. It skitters about between too many people and too long a time period to give any coherent picture of either British India or any of the women mentioned and I was starting to find the book shallow and repetitive. I was not all that interested in who wore what to each party to take place in India over 150 years.There are a couple of more detailed stories towards the end of the book which showed the women as individuals. They gained the book an extra star.

  • Rosemary
    2019-05-20 18:10

    How to find a husband if you are desperate - and you could be desperate at the age of 22 in 19th century Britain. I enjoyed this investigation of the women who came to India husband hunting. Gives a good picture of those at the top and some, not quite at the top, but also life, with its difficulties of living in India. By the time this book is set, the class system was firmly entrenched and little attention is paid to the Indians. One enters the world of the Raj era.

  • Katrina
    2019-06-09 14:04

    This book has taken me ages to it is exciting to finally be finished! I loved the stories of the fishing fleet women! But it was very heavy going and so I would read other things and come back to it! But overall a great read. I would give it 3.5 stars if I could.

  • Gunda
    2019-06-10 18:02

    Fascinating, about the British women who were looking for a husband.Vastly entertaining and while reading about the individual women we learn a lot about the Raj and how the British handled India for many years.

  • Nicole
    2019-05-30 12:12

    To be compared to women who came westward in the mid-19th century.

  • Jbondandrews
    2019-05-29 12:57

    It was quite enjoyable reading about the Fishing Fleet. I was want to learn more about the British in Asia as it will help me to understand my family's history better.

  • Araminta Barlow
    2019-06-05 18:53

    Valuable unpublished material but poor editing means the book is rambling and repetitive.

  • Kagama-the Literaturevixen
    2019-05-22 11:47

    Is there a fiction book about this? If so I would like to read it :)

  • Sally
    2019-06-02 16:57

    "In India they would be besieged by suitors...richer, with more prospects than anyone they could meet in England"By sally tarbox on 3 September 2017Format: Kindle EditionAn eminently readable account of the young unmarried women who went out to India in the days of the Raj to find a husband. Where men massively outnumbered women, this could be a much easier proposition than back home, where the reverse was true.Using memoirs of some of those women, the author takes different aspects of this world in each chapter. The journey out - seasickness, sometimes romance - then the backgrounds of some of those women: some were daughters of colonials, going home after years in a British school. Others were sent out to friends in the hope of marrying them off.Life in India could be great fun: endless parties, an exotic culture, tiger hunts, male attention, but was also far more conservative, snobbish and constrained than in Britain: "If I were asked what struck me as the chief concern of English social life in India, I should answer 'to seek Precedence and ensure it.'" noted one woman. With their own 'royalty' of the viceroy, the author observes the difference between Britain (where women and working-class men were getting into Parliament) and India, where a viceroy HAD to be a man of a certain background. Socializing with the fabulously wealthy local maharajahs took place - but these 'natives' were not permitted to join the all-White clubs. And Anglo-Indians - born of (formerly sanctioned) marriages between white men and local women, were a race apart, colonial children forbidden to mix with them.The author looks too at the hardships these women took on: primitive housing, the heat, disease, earthquakes, skirmishes - and the sad knowledge that any children born would have to be sent to Britain for education - to attend school in India meant they were regarded as 'domiciled' and of a lower social status.Although the ethos was always of putting up with things, I wondered if all the stories were so resolutely 'jolly hockey sticks' as the accounts given. Were there no wives who fled their husband and the privations? They seemed a uniformly tough lot!With b/w photos this is a very interesting read.

  • Steven Clark
    2019-06-14 11:01

    I enjoyed de Courcy's book. Like many, I thought it a long read and somewhat unfocused in the narrative, but I really couldn't put it down. She documents a part of life in British India…that of women going off to live in it, find husbands, etc., and it is always interesting. The book is helped by the use of many letters, diaries, and especially photos of most of the women and their husbands, so we can form a bond with them.The book has no real chronological beginning, but mostly deals with the 1910-1940 period. The ocean voyage, preparing for new life, the hazards of being in the Raj (especially bats in your living room and 'not appearing too clever' are documented with a British style and humor I enjoyed. As one woman recalled, "I was warned we were in bear country, and the Indian women said it wasn't a problem, 'just raise your skirts and they will go away.' I was not willing to put it to the test."Veddy British throughout.As for complaints the book ignores the horrors of British rule, de Courcy makes it clear the women had little, if any power…the Raj was thoroughly male (and most certainly were the Hindu and Muslim rulers), and also, I might add that British rule, for its horrors, was fairly benign, and there would have been no united India if not for Britain pulling together. As it was, servants were delighted to serve under the British, and the native rulers were hardly more benign, nor was Indian caste society any less demanding then the British social system.This is a valuable and entertaining book of a segment of history told mostly through a woman's view, and is a well-written book. perhaps if you want to find a more jaundiced view of the Raj, read Orwell's Burmese Days. Orwell was a policeman in Burma in this era, and makes a nice bookend to this book. With all the failings of suburbia and the world of Stepford Wives, women there don't have to worry about white ants eating up their floors and having to use dirt ones. Nor do they need to have their Topai ready at all times.

  • Nightwitch
    2019-05-30 17:57

    I just couldn't force myself all the way through this; as other reviewers have said, while engagingly written, this is essentially a compilation of random anecdotes focusing on early twentieth-century young British women come out to India (or returned to India) to find husbands and generally have fun. There isn't much examination of the political context of the Raj, although there is a chapter on relationships with Indians which is not particularly enlightening. (The author just goes far too easy on her subjects/sources here. For example, one Anglo-British man is cited by a friend of his as "not liking any Indians except for peasants"; that man's wife is, later in the same chapter, quoted at length about the treatment of Indian women and how their lives in purdah made it impossible to befriend them, which one has to read with some skepticism when one realizes her husband's views. The author does not draw this connection.) The anecdotes end with marriage, which again means that the book is essentially a view of a very narrow slice in women's lives (maturity to probably-fairly-early marriage) in a fairly narrow slice of time (most of the book focuses on the twentieth century) without much analysis or context.

  • Malgorzata Wilk
    2019-05-20 10:49

    I wish I had found this book while my Mother was still alive so I could have asked her how life was in India in the 1960's. Sure, she told me some about our time there, but I was always more interested in the here and now than in the past. I missed the opportunity.This book doesn't have to be read all in one go, you can read a small part, then pick up a different book and come back again after some time. It shows India through the diaries and letters of the Raj, men and women alike and those who visited them, though mostly through the women's perspective. It is about the adventurous women who undertook long voyages in search of a husband and what they found in India. The daily hardships of life in such a different country.If you know India through Paul Scott's "The Raj Quartett" or Bollywood movies, this book will show you a whole new world. It makes you appreciate all the things that we as Europeans from the 21st century take for granted all the more.

  • Geoff Woodland
    2019-05-28 11:08

    I bought this book for research, because I had referred to the ‘fishing fleet’ in my own novel, and I wanted to make sure I had my facts correct. My own work is set in 1814, so I was a little disappointed in the small amount of information that I was able to glean for my period of interest from a three hundred page book. Most of the book deals with young women of reasonably wealthy families (compared to the average Britain at the time), going to India to have some fun and maybe marry. I found the subject interesting, but the focus is on the mid to late 1800’s and the early 1900’s to the second world war – in one case the author took us up to the 1950’s. If you have an interest in the colonial times of India, I think you will find this book of interest.

  • Kay Wahrsager
    2019-05-20 18:04

    Nowhere near the quality of her other books. Mostly a mishmash of of letters and diary extracts of the young women who went out to India as part of the Fishing Fleet in the later period of the Raj prior to Indian independence rather than a coherent narrative. Though I certainly enjoyed the chapter on medical disasters.