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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj
I have always loved Anne De Courcy's biographies and books about social history of women, including the excellent The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters (Women in History), 1939: The Last Season and Debs at War: 1939-1945: 1939-45 and I was equally delighted with her latest work, which looks at the rather bizarre subject of 'husband hunting' in the Raj...
Published on 15 July 2012 by S Riaz

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful research - terrible editing.
The amount of research done was huge, but the book was dull. Anecdotes/facts were jumbled together with 'stories' about individuals - but these 'stories' would 'end' with no resolution and I found myself reading another anecdote/story, which would end just as unresolved to begin another anecdote.

After reading 1/3 I just wanted to give up.

Truly...
Published 20 months ago by Black bamboo


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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj, 15 July 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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I have always loved Anne De Courcy's biographies and books about social history of women, including the excellent The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters (Women in History), 1939: The Last Season and Debs at War: 1939-1945: 1939-45 and I was equally delighted with her latest work, which looks at the rather bizarre subject of 'husband hunting' in the Raj. This book spans all the years of the British in India, although most of the stories are from the twentieth century.

When the British first went to India to trade and work, the men who left the country knew they would probably not return and married Indian wives or took Indian mistresses. As time went on and the East India Company and trade was replaced by government and the ruling classes, men were curtailed from doing this by various means which meant their children were punished by being unable to obtain good jobs and positions. Obviously, as men did not want either their wives or children to suffer through being married to them, gradually their only option was to marry girls from home - easier said than done as travel difficulties meant finding British brides difficult. The Company then began to pay passage to India of a number of willing women who were maintained for a year and expected to marry within that time. For young women, perhaps not pretty or rich enough to make a 'good match' at home, it was a chance to find a husband with better prospects than they could at home and women flocked to India, willing to try to make a go of it. In these early years, the demand for wives were so great that widows were even proposed to during the funeral of their husbands! Although it seems quite amazing to us, for women whose only status came through marriage in those years and who could be considered an 'Old Maid' as young as her early twenties, it was probably a last ditch attempt to avoid a life of dependence or becoming the dreaded governess or companion. These early stories abound with stories of travel difficulties, illness and the possible humiliation as being sent back as 'returned empties'...

Later in the years of the Raj, women themselves (or rather their family) paid for them to visit India either to visit family for the social experience as much as the chance of marriage. These are the years of a social whirl and a chance for young women to experience the heady delights of gala weeks and untold eligable suitors - especially after the first world war, when young men were simply not available to marry at home. Women aimed to marry men from the Indian Civil Service or Army Officers, although many men were unable to marry until they were at least thirty. However, there were plenty of males willing to escort young women to the dances, parties, polo matches and trips that were part of life at that time. De Courcy uses letters, interviews and personal memories to make that time come alive and discusses everything from the voyage out, to pitfalls awaiting the young women who visited and often stayed.

It is fair to say that life in the Raj was not all wonderful. There was inherent racism and mixing between the races was heavily censored. Although one Maharajah recevied permission to bring his discreet French mistress to India, when Maharajah Rajendar Singh wanted to marry the sister of the young Irishman who looked after his horses, the match met disapproval on terms of both race and rank and ended in tragedy. There were many other problems faced by young women: snobbishness, disapproval, the lonliness of isolated plantations or small towns, discomfort, the heat, and the loss of children through illness or because it was expected they would be sent back to England for their education - where they also often suffered, at best from being lonely, and at worst were possibly abused by unscrupulous people who mistreated them when so far away from home. However, for many it was a land of magic, beauty and opportunity and, for many, happy endings. This is a riveting read, full of wonderful personal stories and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Lastly, I read the kindle version of this book (I hope the author makes her other books available in this format) and the illustrations were included at the end.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just how my mother told it!, 24 Oct 2012
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I bought this book for obvious reasons - my mother (born Ooticamund 1908, living in Ceylon with her family in the mid 20's, met & married my father who visited in an RN Warship) was one of the kind of people written about. Her own mother's family went back at least two generations in India and all met and married similar families out there. Obviously, with quite a lot of background, I found it riveting, loved the pictures and thought the style elegant and informed. I wasn't concerned about the piecemeal nature of the memoirs, and thought them well marshalled and edited.

I only forebore from giving it 5 stars because I can hear my mother's snort from beyond the grave. She was very precise about the "Fishing Fleet"; they were girls who were sent out to India from England to Indian based relatives to find a husband. As distinct from "country-born" girls, who may (by my mother's, but not in her mother's time) be sent back to England to be educated, and who then returned to live with their families. The author seemed to use the epithet for all who met and married in India, including girls from Indian based families.

It also delightfully emphasised the tremendous importance of brothers in this whole operation - my mother often told me how important it was that her brother was there to introduce her to brother officers and chaperone her.

We used to laugh that my parents were reverse fishing fleet - she lived there and my father sailed out and met her in India, although they were married in England and she never lived in India or Ceylon again after her marriage to a Naval Officer. Undoubtedly a partial review, but I loved it and will look out Anne de Courcy's other books (some of which I have heard of, but not yet read).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful research - terrible editing., 22 Jan 2013
The amount of research done was huge, but the book was dull. Anecdotes/facts were jumbled together with 'stories' about individuals - but these 'stories' would 'end' with no resolution and I found myself reading another anecdote/story, which would end just as unresolved to begin another anecdote.

After reading 1/3 I just wanted to give up.

Truly interesting 'facts'/anecdotes made into unbearable reading by 'fractured' writing/editing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Days, 12 Oct 2012
By 
Ronald J. Button "Alf" (England) - See all my reviews
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A thoroughly enjoyable yarn, particularly if one has served in the Sub-Continent. Although a lifetime ago, this book has brought back memories, and plenty of smiles.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive, 31 Dec 2013
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It's a catalogue of girls telling about their time in India. It was interesting to read some of the facts but was all a bit repetitive. There were so many facts it was difficult to remember whether you'd read about that particular girl before. Not a novel but a diary of facts. I'd be reluctant to recommend this book as I think some would find it quite boring.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story, well told, 10 Nov 2012
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A really good read about a fascinating subject. Anne de Courcy clearly did extensive research and it has paid off. The sheer boredom of women's lives in India hadn't occured to me before and yet they managed well. The men, although very bright, seemed to be only really interested in riding, polo and tiger hunting. Class was all-important, particularly amongst the wives for whom precedence at social events was their main interest. The British class system was only matched by India's caste structure, which may be one of the reasons the Raj survived for so long. Victorian values and morals appeared to have lasted until the 1939/45 war. Strongly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb account of a little remembered event in India., 30 May 2013
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This is a beautifully written account of a facet of the Raj, which is missed by most of the histories of the period. Seen through the eyes of those who participated, Anne de Courcy has created a book of great interest that I found difficult to put down. Her diligent research shines through every chapter and gives an excellent insight of just how things were during the Raj. For me it has been hugely interesting because one of the women was the daughter of an ancestor of mine and as a result, I have been able to contact and meet the modern members of her family.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Diappointing and disjointed, 4 Oct 2012
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The author had clearly done a significant amount of research into this book but seemed overkeen to add as many sources as possible so that the narrative was tripping over itself to demonstrate that rather than tell a flowing story - one anecdote which demonstrated that for me and made me at that point stop reading, was, in the middle of a description of the uniforms worn by the Indian staff, re the comments made by one reviewer of a report, regarding the handwriting of an earlier reviewer, absolutely none of which was relevant to the story of these women. It also took the widest possible definition of who comprised the "fishing fleet" to include anyone who went on vacation to India or even was returning there after a period at school in Britain as being part of the husaband-searching set. A focus perhaps on the women who were actually shipped out and paid for by the East India Company would have been a narrower and I think a far more coherent story than that of any young woman who happened to be in India at the time of the Raj. Instead, this was miscellaneous anecdotes of the period, loosely joined up with periodic references to young women to try to create a theme. This was excellent research very badly let down by poor editing.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History made real, 6 Sep 2012
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This beautifully written book was a real page turner, especially since my paternal grandparents fit the mould. My grandfather was in the ICS and married my grandmother in a whirlwind romance on one of his long 3 year leaves. When my father read this book he immediately ordered copies for the rest of the family so that they could understand his story. Sent back to England at the age of 5 with his younger brother he suffered enormously from the absence of his parents and was determined to do better for us. The war and the break-up of Empire broke the tradition but this wonderful book explains perfectly the price that was paid by so many.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fishing Fleet, 18 July 2013
By 
JLH (Winchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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Enthralling book - a different look at women's lives in the days of the Raj, with plenty of personal stories. Not the gilded life many of us may have thought. Excellent social history and highly recommended to anyone with an interest in any aspect of Indian history.
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