• The Fishing Fleet

  • Husband-Hunting in the Raj
  • By: Anne de Courcy
  • Narrated by: Greta Scacchi
  • Length: 13 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-31-12
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Limited
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.7 (6 ratings)

Regular price: $25.81

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Publisher's Summary

From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain's best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers, and businessmen. With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake. This amorphous band was composed of daughters returning after their English education, girls invited to stay with married sisters or friends, and yet others whose declared or undeclared goal was simply to find a husband.
They were known as the Fishing Fleet, and this book is their story, hitherto untold. 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. And, with men outnumbering women by 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.
Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources - unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics - which bring this forgotten era vividly to life.
Read by Greta Scacchi.
©2012 Anne de Courcy (P)2012 Orion Publishing Group
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Robyn on 05-19-13

too much of a very good thing

This is an excellent and interesting social history of the Raj, and so comprehensive it seems to cover every aspect of life for this privileged sub-section of English society. There are interesting quotes from letters and interviews to illustrate the various points, so it is full of life and colour and human experience. The book is true to its title, the focus stays on the Fishing Fleet women, with enough context to bring their experiences to life, but it seems strange that a book set in India has so little to say about the millions of Indians who were forced to make way and bow and scrape to the English who thought themselves superior to Indians in every way and lost no opportunity to enforce the English version of hierarchy. Indian people are there on the periphery, mostly as servants, but we learn little about the conditions of their lives when they were not waiting on their employers. My only serious criticism is that the book was just too long, despite the fact that everything in it is interesting. Perhaps there were too many family stories and anecdotes - they all started to sound the same after a while, and a lot of the preoccupations of these women who typically had no role other than wife and mother are pretty boring - balls, dinners, what to wear, and whether they would succeed in getting a good catch or be 'returned empty'. It's hard to criticise such a well-written book, but the fact is I found it too interesting to abandon but not interesting enough to make me keen to get back to it - contradictory sentiments, I know, but that's the way it was for me. Anne de Courcy's writing is excellent, as always. There is no better reader than Greta Scacchi and she is the perfect choice for this book. Her diction, pronunciation of foreign words, and beautiful voice make every word a pleasure to listen to.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Neil Chisholm on 06-26-13

Sundowners, evening dresses and engagements

I've listened to several histories relating to India and the British Raj recently and when the subtitle to this book was Husband Hunting in the Raj I had to listen to it. I wasn't disappointed.

While it focuses on how to find a husband in 1920s and 30s India it was in reality a social history of how the British lived in India - it was fascinating. Nothing was left out and its amazing that the British lasted as long as they did - the only reason I think they did was the gin, the club and the inherited stiff upper lip! Some of the stories told by actual wives to be were hysterical and totally amazing - tiger hunts and engagements, treks and ticks, dances and faux pas.

Its a fantastic snapshot of a time now long gone but for those that lived it and passed on their stories thank you for sharing it and congratulations on snagging a man. I personally feel sorry for those that didn't manage to do so going back to Britain labelled "Returned Empty". Such a sad thing to be labelled but so apt.

I highly recommended book both for the content and the delightful narration by Greta Scacchi. I shall search out other De Courcy books as she has a lovely way of telling a tale.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By susan on 07-15-14

Go east, young woman...and they did!

Where does The Fishing Fleet rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?


I enjoyed this book but, unusually, might have preferred a print version (see below).

Some of the stories, diary extracts etc were fascinating glimpses into the lives of women in the Raj, and pointed up the striking contrasts between the physical privations and the unimaginable grandeur the yendured and witnessed.

If you’ve listened to books by Anne de Courcy before, how does this one compare?

This was my first Anne de Courcy book

Have you listened to any of Greta Scacchi’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I only know Greta Scacchi as an actress, but thought she was perfect for this book

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

See title above

Any additional comments?

As I was listening I longed to see photos etc., so am now buying the illustrated print version of this book.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By A on 05-31-14

A Different World

Would you listen to The Fishing Fleet again? Why?

So much of the content seemed so strange, that I could do with a second hearing. I have always enjoyed reading about India, and about the lives of women, and about history; this book combines all three.

What other book might you compare The Fishing Fleet to, and why?

Cannot think of another book quite like this

Have you listened to any of Greta Scacchi’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I have not heard her read before. Her voice seemed perfect for conveying the experiences of British women.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, made me laugh; some of the anecdotes were very funny. Some of the incidents were incredible. Most of all I marvelled at the courage of these women, the attitudes of the British as colonists, and the exotic setting of that vast country, India.

Any additional comments?

A wonderfully thorough survey of many diaries, journals and books, with memories of life in India in previous centuries.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Vanessa Young on 07-11-17

More fascinating social history

A carefully researched and well read book about a little known 'marriage market'. Warning: there are descriptions of tiger hunts, which some may find a little distressing, in this book.

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5 out of 5 stars
By stephen on 04-30-17

Fascinating

What did you like most about The Fishing Fleet?

These stories are about an amazing time in history lived by equally amazing people

What other book might you compare The Fishing Fleet to, and why?

Heat and Dust because it evokes the same sense of an era

What about Greta Scacchi’s performance did you like?

Greta delivers

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The quest for romance

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