East of the Sun
As the Kaisar-I-Hind weighs anchor for Bombay in the autumn of 1928, its passengers ponder their fate in a distant land. They are part of the “Fishing Fleet”—the name given to the legions of English women who sail to India each year in search of husbands, heedless of the life that awaits them. The inexperienced chaperone Viva Holloway has been entrusted to watch over three unsettling charges. There’s Rose, as beautiful as she is naïve, who plans to marry a cavalry officer she has met a mere handful of times. Her bridesmaid, Victoria, is hell-bent on losing her virginity en route before finding a husband of her own. And shadowing them all is the malevolent presence of a disturbed schoolboy named Guy Glover.
From the parties of the wealthy Bombay socialites to the poverty of Tamarind Street, from the sooty streets of London to the genteel conversation of the Bombay Yacht Club, East of the Sun takes us back to a world we hardly understand but yearn to know. This is a book that has it all: glorious detail, fascinating characters, and masterful storytelling.
A new novel from Julia Gregson: East of the Sun
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Viva’s decision to return to India is a complicated one. What does she expect to discover? What life does she want to create for herself? How does that change over the course of the novel?
2. The notion of home is an important theme in the novel. Contrast the homes that the girls leave behind with the ones that they create. Viva and Tor thrive in the foreign setting and relative freedom of India, while Rose’s new life is tinged with nostalgia. What constitutes home for each? Discuss the thrills and perils of being a young woman in the Fishing Fleet, leaving home for the unknown.
3. The author frequently uses rich, colorful imagery to describe the exotic sights of India. How do the sensual descriptions of India contrast with those of England? How do the descriptions and images of daily life differ?
4. Rose and Tor have no education and little information to prepare them for relationships with men. In what ways does this sexual innocence see more
Behind the Book
Background Info on Writing EAST OF THE SUN
Why I Wrote East of the Sun
by Julia Gregson
Four years ago, in a remote house in Wales, I came across a box of tape recordings made by a childhood heroine of mine, Mrs. Smith Pearse. I was five when we met. She was sixty. She and her husband had recently returned to England after fifteen years in India.
I loved everything about her: the battered tweeds, the honking laugh, the wonderful storie