The Fishing Fleets by Anne de Courcy
Husband-hunting in the Raj

78%

6 Critic Reviews

De Courcy has done a good deal of fishing herself, trolling for stories in sources that date from the early days of the company in the 17th century...bulk of her material is from the late 19th and early 20th ­centuries — perhaps simply because there’s more of it and perhaps because this seems to be her own favorite stalking ground.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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. 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Drawing on a wealth of firsthand sources, including unpublished memoirs, letters, photographs, and diaries, Anne de Courcy brings the incredible world of "the Fishing Fleet," as these women were known, to life.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.

 

About Anne de Courcy

See more books from this Author
Anne de Courcy is a well-known writer and journalist. In the 1970s she was Woman's Editor on the LONDON EVENING NEWS and in the 1980s she was a regular feature-writer for the EVENING STANDARD. She is also a former feature writer and reviewer for the DAILY MAIL.
 
Published March 11, 2014 by Harper. 348 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Fishing Fleets
All: 6 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Oct 20 2013

A British biographer finds lively fodder from the accounts of Victorian women venturing to India to find a spouse—and the men who scooped them up...An expert researcher brings the romantic Raj era to colorful life.

Read Full Review of The Fishing Fleets: Husband-h... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Alida Becker on Feb 28 2014

De Courcy has done a good deal of fishing herself, trolling for stories in sources that date from the early days of the company in the 17th century...bulk of her material is from the late 19th and early 20th ­centuries — perhaps simply because there’s more of it and perhaps because this seems to be her own favorite stalking ground.

Read Full Review of The Fishing Fleets: Husband-h... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Bella Bathurst on Nov 02 2013

As an account of husband-hunting, The Fishing Fleet is thorough and serviceable. As an account of how to screw up two societies at once, it's unparalleled.

Read Full Review of The Fishing Fleets: Husband-h... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jad Adams on Jul 13 2012

The book glitters with quotes from the women themselves, but they are unfortunately unreferenced, so often we have to guess whether the recollections are from letters, diaries, memoirs or personal interviews with elderly ladies.

Read Full Review of The Fishing Fleets: Husband-h... | See more reviews from Guardian

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Sarah Stonich on Mar 01 2014

Making liberal use of letters and journals, “The Fishing Fleet” paints a fascinating picture of these women and their history...a book such as “The Fishing Fleet” provides a glimpse of a unique era, the likes of which are fascinating and thankfully in the past.

Read Full Review of The Fishing Fleets: Husband-h... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Martin Rubin on Jun 18 2014

Anne de Courcy tells her story through a mass of evocative detail and a host of memorable characters down the decades and centuries of British life in India. She can make you laugh or break your heart, but she will never bore you.

Read Full Review of The Fishing Fleets: Husband-h... | See more reviews from Washington Times

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65%

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