Ebookwormy's Reviews > The English Governess at the Siamese Court: The True Story Behind 'The King and I'

The English Governess at the Siamese Court by Anna Harriette Leonowens
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Nov 04, 12

bookshelves: biography

I read this book a few years ago. I enjoyed it, though i had some reservations about it's accuracy. It is a well written memoir, but such work is only as accurate as the perception of the individual writing it. I talked with a friend from Thailand (formerly Siam), and she told me about the controversy surrounding Anna and that this book and all films from it, were banned in Thailand. At the same time, she said she was thrilled that I was interested and reading about Thailand! :) She was a wonderful, intelligent woman, I miss her and wish I'd gotten to know her better.

For a concise examination of disparities, read:

When I read the book, I found myself respecting the King as presented. What he accomplished in Siam/ Thailand, resisting British colonial ambition, is quite amazing. He is presented as a strong leader, facing difficult challenges in the life of his nation who has to make some daring and courageous choices, yet still has an affection for his children and wives (within the context of a harem, which remains somewhat unfathomable to me). I wanted to read more about Thai history, but as it's not easy to find, I haven't... yet.

As for Anna, she is, as one would expect from her personal account, presented favorably and appears to have considerable influence. I am not willing to quite dismiss her as readily as some within Thailand, as my experience has been that only those present can really say what the relationships were like. Either way, Anna was a pretty plucky single mom in a time that wasn't favorable to her status. She was probably a flawed human being (aren't we all!), yet she did manage to make a life for her and her son. I may not agree with everything she did to accomplish that, but my assertions remain hypothetical, as I was not given her shoes to walk.

In conclusion, I found the writing a good record of one person's perspective. But given questions about Anna, it should be taken more as a story of historical fiction, than history. There is much to admire about Anna and the King. There is also some material (particularly pertaining to relationships within the harem) that will be uncomfortable. Recommended, probably high school and above.
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message 1: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay Prell i will grant that anna was a woman of her time - and cannot vouch for the total accuracy of what she wrote - it's been a long time since i read this - but when a government bans a book - i don't necessarily take its word for it that the book was inaccurate.

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