on 13 June 2010
I first saw the film Anna and the King when I was a child with my parents and at that time the full horror of the era of Siam did not impact upon me. The musical version gave me an impression of fun and lightness and learning and I must have glossed over the horror of Tuptim's life and death. Slavery did not impact upon me either. It was when I was much older and saw a later version of the film that I began to see the historical issues involved. It occured to me that I might be able to find a copy of the book that the films were based upon. I chose to treat myself to a first edition of this book and so began my journey into a very different world. There is good background information about the author's search for details about Anna Leonowens and at the end, an update of her later life and meeting with Prince Chulalongkorn - another aspect of the story I found fascinating as he informed Anna that her teaching had been instrumental in many of the changes he made to his kingdom. Within the book itself there is much that was used in the films but nothing like the detail of her life and her fears - not only for her own life but that of her son, servants and the royal wives and children. She made many lasting relationships and led a fascinating life at a time when lone women did not venture far from either the parental or married home. This book is a thoughtful and insightful read that says as much for the times as it does for brave and intrepid women. An excellent read on many levels.
on 21 February 2014
I'm glad to have read this wonderful book. It has had me fighting back tears, wide-eyed in awe, and laughing out loud in equal measure. Some of the descriptions are rather lengthy, but necessary to give scale and perspective to the claustrophobic feel of life cloistered within the palace confines where the narrative takes place.
I'm not surprised that the Siamese authorities of the day, did all in their power to try to suppress publication of Anna's own memoirs as governess to the royal children, and wives. Readers will make up their own mind about the King. I think he was a terrible cruel despot, even by the standards of his time.
The descriptions of regional and global political manoeuvres surrounding the characters are quite an eye opener too. The superpowers of the day were squabbling and struggling to expand their influence in the region, which makes for an interesting backdrop to the story of Anna and the King. Definitely a must-read.
on 29 October 2012
The book, a paperback, carries the story of Leonowens, upon which the story of 'the King and I' was based. It is ideal material, for anyone wishing to understand the people portrayed in the musical, with deep insights into their personalities and characters.