The Fishing Fleet

Written by Anne de Courcy
Review by Alan Fisk

From the 19th to the mid-20th century, upper middle-class British families had a problem: there weren’t enough suitable men for their daughters to marry. Meanwhile, India was awash with single young men in the service of the Raj. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the East India Company had been relaxed about liaisons and marriages between its men and Indian women, but the stuffier 19th century put a stop to that. Solution: put your daughter on a ship to Bombay with instructions to find a husband in India.

For those who had never seen India before, many shocks were in store. If they married a man who held a solitary post far upcountry, the dangers to life and limb were accompanied by boredom and loneliness. Wherever they fetched up, the women of the Fishing Fleet had to conform to the rules of a rigidly stratified and rule-bound society.

Nearly all these women met their daily challenges heroically. I have not seen any historical novels about them, but I am sure that it has been done. Recommended as an absorbing read.