The Fishing Fleet
I’d bought The Fishing Fleet: Husband hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy for my sister for Christmas, but then decided I needed to read it too, so downloaded it onto my kindle and read it on my journey through the Christmas Eve storm down to see my family in Kent. I always enjoy a book about colonial misdemeanours or a good novel set in colonial India, China or Afghanistan, many of which touch on the role of British women in these stuffy closed societies and what it was like to be surrounded by a culture completely alien to theirs, shut away in conventions often long out-of-date from the England back home at the time.
This was a fascinating book about that experience through the different periods of the Raj. It is organised by theme and so hops about in time from period to period and from one set of charaters to another, telling the stories of many different women who boarded ships in England and set out on the long voyage to India to find romance, a husband and a new life. I liked the descriptions of life onboard these ships and the whirlwind romances that sometimes took place, leading to weddings immediately on disembarking. I also enjoyed depictions of dealing with tigers in the garden, snakes in the bedroom and life cut off many miles from anywhere, or anyone else in Raj society.
The way it was organised was a little frustrating. The themes were really interesting ones, but I couldn’t help wishing it was organised around fewer main characters so I could get to know each of their stories a little better. My sister seemed suspiciously far through it when I found her reading it on Christmas Day afternoon, and it turned out she was skipping through to try and read it chronologically, and to find out what happened to those she was most interested in. However, it’s a fascinating read and one which definitely transports you out of rain-soaked December England into a set of very different and more colourful times and places.