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Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the "King and I" Governess

3.41  ·  Rating Details  ·  73 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
If you thought you knew the story of Anna in The King and I, think again. As this riveting biography shows, the real life of Anna Leonowens was far more fascinating than the beloved story of the Victorian governess who went to work for the King of Siam. To write this definitive account, Susan Morgan traveled around the globe and discovered new information that has eluded r ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published July 7th 2008 by University of California Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Margaret Elder
Nov 18, 2014 Margaret Elder rated it liked it
The author had an interesting story to tell, but she didn't tell it as well as she could have. The biography is bogged down with irrelevant details about too many other people, and there are places where chronological order is not kept. The beginning frankly drags, and it was not until the material about life in Siam that I got interested. Since this was a selection of a book club I belong to, I wanted to finish, and I'm glad I did, for the book is much more interesting toward the end.
Though we discover through Morgan's biography of Anna Leonowens that most of the woman's life as we know it from "The King and I" or from "Anna and the King" or even from Leonowens' own books about her time teaching the King's children in Siam is actually a lie, we can tell that Morgan still admires her.
"Siam was the high point of Anna's life, not because it was the most important thing she ever did--to her it was not--but because it was the turning point in a process that made her at last into
Nov 16, 2008 Gayle rated it it was ok
Shelves: finished
This was a very interesting topic and contained much information that put The King and I in historical perspective. Unfortunately, I thought it was incredibly repetitive. Sometimes the same thing was said more than once on the same page. I am probably in the minority with this view. I just think a good editor should have tightened it up and made it flow. It isn't a narrative, but the organization should have been more apparent and useful.
Ann Costello
Jun 23, 2008 Ann Costello rated it really liked it
About Anna Leonowens of Siam and the King. Fascinating account of how she changed her image to become what she wished and what would benefit herself and her family. And how our preception of Siam/Thailand was shaped by her life and her biography. I was sometimes put off by the author's style. She tends to repeat herself which always strikes me as a bit patronizing. But aside from that, I couldn't put it down.
Diane C.
Mar 18, 2012 Diane C. rated it liked it
This book is very interesting and a historically accurate and powerful account of the times and the people. A real eye opener, and I would reocmmend whole heartedly, even if you are not fascinated by the Anna and the King of Siam story.

That said, it is rather dense and pedantic, not necessarily a FUN read. But has so much worthwhile info for history buffs, check it out.
Elevate Difference
Jan 11, 2009 Elevate Difference rated it really liked it
Almost everyone in America has heard of Anna, the famous upper class English lady who held her own with the King of Siam. What most people haven’t heard is the real story behind the better-known, fictionalized character. Susan Morgan has devoted over a decade to fleshing out the life of Anna Leonowens in Bombay Anna. This was not an easy job given the lengths Anna went to alter her past, even writing a false biography for her grandchildren.

Contrary to Anna’s claims of an upper class English upbr
AngelaGay Kinkead
Mar 07, 2009 AngelaGay Kinkead rated it liked it
Really appreciate the author's consuming work to dig deeper into this seemingly unimportant story that has entertained and informed several generations now. Saw the original "The King and I" as a child, then loved the book as a young reader. Read it several times. Then saw the Jody Foster version of the movie. Always interested in filling in the gaps, I read a review of this book and immediately put it on my list to read. A fascinating expose' on Anna Leonowens, a mixed race Victorian woman, rai ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Pearl rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Excellent, excellent, excellent!

I didn't know much about Anna Leonowens, except the movie and musical of Anna and The King or The King and I, the later being written by someone else. The former being based off of Anna's memoirs during her time in the Siam court, a book which I have read some time ago now and at the time thinking it was totally non fiction. Wow, was I wrong.

Anna was born and grew up in India and was a quarter Indian on her mothers side, unlike the portrait she painted about her s
I really want to read this book, but I'm just not in the mood for non-fiction right now. I keep skipping over it when picking it up, so shall put it away for a bit until the spirit grabs me to check in on Anna again.

I've been fascinated by what I've read so far, particularly that Anna totally reinvented herself and her history. Her actual history, which the author/researcher tracked down, placed her born and raised in an area of India where I've spent much time: Ahmednagar, in Maharastra. My br
Muriel Hammond-teusink
I totally enjoyed this book. I enjoyed this "biography"/story about one who lied about her parentage and picked a point in time, created a history, and lived it out for almost 70 years afterwards. I do not condone untruthfulness; but, this lady concocted a story, financially supported herself and in so doing created a life for her children that would educate them beyond the possibilities of that time for folks of their perceived status.

I learned about the East India Company and can not be proud
Mallee Stanley
Jun 11, 2014 Mallee Stanley rated it it was amazing
The real life of Anna was so interesting and it's not hard to imagine why she kept her childhood past secret, especially when socializing with the British!
Cynthia Garza
Jun 23, 2016 Cynthia Garza rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: To all who want to know about the -real- Anna
I give this book 4 stars because the research was thorough and because this biography stands a chance to become the classic -scholarly- biography of Anna Leonownes. I found the appendices to be enlargements of ideas discussed in the book. I think she might do well to do some pruning of her writing.
If you are in love with the movie -The King and I- and want to know more, you can learn more by reading this book. You will be in for some surprises if all you know about Anna is gleaned fromm the mov
Rebecca Huston
Aug 27, 2010 Rebecca Huston rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keepers, non-fiction
A fascinating look at the heroine of The King and I, Anna Leonowens. Turns out that her real life is much more amazing and interesting than just being a governess in a king's harem. Great read and recommended.

For the complete review, please go here:
Aug 10, 2011 Gail added it
This was a really well researched biography, and because I'm living in Thailand right now, a very timely read. Interestingly enough, I gained a lot of insight about modern Thai society through her research about Thailand so long ago. As a read, it needs to be a digested slowly, not as a main course, but a piece of dark chocolate, now and again only.
Jun 08, 2009 Rebekah rated it it was ok
I just couldn't finish this book. The parts I read were interesting, but it was very slow, and I just wasn't in the mood to finish it before it was due back to the library. Most interesting thing I learned in the first third of the book was that Anna, as in The King and I Anna, was the aunt of Boris Karloff.
Apr 16, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it
Scholarly but compelling story of the real Anna from the King and I. Maybe a little too much historical setting in the beginning. An amazing woman who invents a background for herself and then, through her own intelligence and ambition becomes a strong voice for the unenfranchised.
Jun 14, 2009 Pat rated it really liked it
A very well-researched story of the real Anna who was governess to the King of Siam in the last half of the 19th century. Her real story, which she tried very hard to hide, is more interesting than the story she sold to the world.
Steve Shilstone
Jul 17, 2013 Steve Shilstone rated it really liked it
Real life ten times as fascinating as what we get in 'Anna and the King of Siam' or 'The King and I'. I mean, besides being brilliant and secretive, this woman was Boris Karloff's grandmother's sister!
Rona Dressler
Feb 15, 2016 Rona Dressler rated it really liked it
I've always loved the story of Anna and the King and this book gave me a realistic view of the woman behind the movie and show. Enjoyable and easy to read-actually couldn't put it down.
Feb 22, 2010 Lu marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, thailand
The true story of Anna and the King of Siam
Feb 25, 2012 Susie rated it did not like it
Shelves: ugh
I just couldn't finish it.
Keiry Ko
Keiry Ko marked it as to-read
Jun 22, 2016
Ka Wa Wong
Ka Wa Wong marked it as to-read
Jun 04, 2016
Cedar Kopesky
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May 26, 2016
Edith rated it really liked it
May 30, 2016
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