Monday, April 21, 2014

The Fishing Fleet by Anne De Courcy

This non-fiction book, subtitled Husband Hunting in the Raj, describes the young English women who travelled to India to find husbands in the late 1800s and early 20th century.  The women were sent to have their pick of soldiers and government workers posted in India.  Some were returning to their birthplace having been sent back to England by their parents for their education, others were "old maids" in their early 20s who had fewer prospects at home.

I don't really recommend this book unless, like me, you are headed to India in the near future and wish to learn more about the country's history.  It reads like a text book and some of the lengthy descriptions of clothing and living quarters were quite tedious.  That being said, it was clearly well researched - in the acknowledgments the author credits dozens of memoirs and first hand accounts.  And some of the social commentary - on the gender discrimination as well as the racial and class discrimination were quite fascinating.  It was also interesting to read about sites that I will see (like the Taj Mahal) from the perspective of people who were seeing them over 100 years ago.

In sum, this was educational but felt a bit like studying for a history exam rather than leisure reading.

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