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A different kind of Fishing Fleet - East of the sun by Julia Gregson
East of the Sun - Julia Gregson
Member Name: catsholiday
East of the Sun - Julia Gregson
Date: 19/09/09, updated on 17/08/11 (92 review reads)
Advantages: A good story, set in historical context, believable characters,an easy read
Disadvantages: Images of India a little romantic and rose tinted
WHAT ATTRACTED ME:
Once again I was the cover of this book, a beautiful peacock in the foreground and Indian border down the bottom. The colours are green and muted yellows and gold for the border. It looked reminiscent of a romantic image of colonial India.
The author Julia Gregson was a former Hardie Amies model and she moved to Austrlia where she took up journalism. This took her to New York, Los Angeles, India and Vietnam as a foreign correspondent for magazines. She was inspired to write this novel by her husband telling her about the Indian 'Fishing Fleet' of young women who came out on the liners to look for suitable husbands as there were so many available men compared to women in India in the 1920s.
The heroine of the novel is Viva Holloway who lost all her family in India and has been at schools and farmed out to relatives who grudgingly put up with her. She is now a young lady in London who yearns to return to India, the country she remembers fondly where she was a happy as a child with her family. The official reason for her return is to collect a trunk left with a friend of her family in Simla which contains some of their belongings. Throughout the novel Viva keeps her emotions in check and appears very efficient and self contained. The reader is given hints that this is not really the true picture but the story of her family's death and what they were like is only revealed in small snippets as the story progresses.
Having very little money Viva decides that she will offer her services as chaperone in return for half the fare to India. She ends up with a somewhat disturbed young man, Guy Glover, who has been excluded from school who needs to be returned to his family in India as one contract. The second chaperoning duty was looking after two young girls, one of whom, Rose, is betrothed to a young officer in the Indian Army who she met briefly in England and is now nervously going to join him and get married. The other young girl is Tor, Rose's friend and bridesmaid who hopes to meet her future husband on the journey or in India as she is desperate to escape her somewhat controlling mother.
The journey out captured the excitement and atmosphere of the ship and ports of call and we begin to learn a bit more about the characters as well as meet other incidental and more central characters such as Frank, the ship's doctor going to India to work on a tropical disease in the hospitals there.
Viva enjoys her chaperoning duties with the girls and becomes quite friendly with them but Guy causes her quite a few problems and one major incident develops into a major part of the story once Viva is in India.
Once they all arrive in India they sort of go their separate ways but they do come together in different ways as their lives move on in India. Frank goes off to his hospital, Guy is collected by his parents, the girls stay with a relative in a very large ostentatious house until Rose gets married and Viva gets a job in a local children's home and lives in a local area in her own flat.
Initially I found the journey provided a good idea of what would have happened on the liners heading out to India, the drinks parties, dining formalities and luxury of the first class passengers. On arrival in India I found the portrayal of the wealthy relative Ci Ci and her behaviour, descriptions of her life style to be pretty close to other stories I have heard about colonial India life styles and what I personally saw as colonial life when I was growing up in the West Indies.
The part I found difficult to believe was that Viva found accommodation in the poorer Indian area and lived with the local population and ate the local food, including drinking brackish water and there was NO mention of stomach troubles. I don't know anyone who has spent any time in India , who has not had some sort of upset stomach even when being very careful with food and drinking bottled water.
Maybe Ms Gregson felt this did not add to the story to have her heroine and other characters rushing to the toilet or puking on the trains etc. They even travelled third class on the train which I found very difficult to believe at this time.
I just found that it was a little rosy and romantic and anyone who has been to India will know that cleanliness in the towns generally is not seen and you would have to be very brave to eat anything from a street stall and certainly not drink any non-bottled water.
The characters were quite believable and complimented each other. I did get a bit annoyed with the heroine as she was making some very silly decisions at one time but I guess it was part of the story and these decisions were needed for other things to develop.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
Yes I enjoyed the book. It did recreate an image of bygone colonial India and told an interesting story based on historical events at this time in India. The perceptions and beliefs of the character reflected the stereotypical snobby superior white colonial people who lived in India at this time but also included other English people who worked with the Indians in a more caring and supportive way which is probably a fairly true reflection of the mix of people in India at the early part of the 20th century prior to Indian independence.|
It was a story that kept me intrigued and the descriptions of the liner and pre-Independence India I felt were fairly accurate, the characters were not wooden and had both good and bad character traits. I enjoyed the story and found it easy to read and I would look out for other books by this author to read in the future.
This review may be posted on other sites under my same name.
Summary: A good romantic story set in Pre independence India