Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Anne de Courcy’s “The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj"

Here is a review by Carol Herman that I liked very much.

On May 12, we faced the wind and the rain to gather in Jonna’s lovely home to discuss the heat and the dust described in Anne de Courcy’s “The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj”. Opinions were divided: once we had recovered from the shock of realisation that we were not to be treated to a cosy, Barbara Cartland-style romantic novel, we put on our social historian hats and settled down to read this rather exhaustive – and, it has to be admitted, at times rather exhausting – account of the marriage market in colonial India. Often repetitive and deliberately anecdotal, the book concentrates upon recounting the stories of a socially-speaking somewhat limited sample of women who travelled to India, married and settled there over a period from the end of the seventeenth century to the middle of the twentieth and India’s independence. Some of the insights are fascinating, some horrifying; the unremitting boredom of the life of a planter’s wife making do in the middle of nowhere, living from one gathering at “The Club” to another, is well described as is the contrast between the wealth and display of ceremonial festivities with the sicknesses and dangers of life in India and the heart-breaking separation from children sent “home” to be educated. Several of the novels we have read have featured the lives of these “Raj” children and it was interesting to reflect on these. A mixed review for de Courcy’s book: like the Curate’s egg, “Good in parts!”

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