I have on my shelves a number of books by Anne de Courcy - Society's Queen: The Life of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, 1939: The Last Season and The Viceroy's Daughters - and I've greatly enjoyed them all, so I'm delighted to have her latest, The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj.
Using unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics, Anne tells the story of the young women who, from the late 19th. century, when the Raj was at its height, left Britain for India in search of a husband.
Known as 'the Fishing Fleet', "for these young women, often away from home for the first time, one thing they could be sure of was a rollicking good time. By the early 20th. century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas, gymkhanas with perhaps a tiger shoot and a glittering dinner at a raja's palace thrown in.
With men outnumbering women roughly four to one, romances were conducted at alarming speed and marriages were frequent. But after the honeymoon, life often changed dramatically: whisked off to a remote outpost with few other Europeans for company and where constant vigilance was required to guard against disease, they found it a far cry from the social whirlwind of their first arrival."
Illustrated with photographs which bring out both the exoticism and outlandishness of the country and customs the women were discovering, and the lavish and sometimes bizarre efforts at keeping British traditions alive in a very foreign environment, the book promises to be as well-researched and engrossing as Anne de Courcy's other work.