Nicole Shelby's Reviews > Anna and the King of Siam

Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon
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's review
Oct 27, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: good-again
Read in October, 2008 , read count: 2

I always question the value of my small contribution in my sphere of influence. This book was about a woman who did the best she could to improve for good the world around her. She lived with integrity, determination and courage. Who saw the small opportunities around her and made the most of them. This book was about the few years that she lived in Siam - and was a teacher to the children and women of the King. Where she was payed very little, but did her best with the opportunities to serve that she encountered. I found it entertaining, inspiring, and often foreign - with presentation of customs and ideas that were so out of range of anything in my own experience. I will never be a teacher and governess to a capricious and tyrannical sovereign. However, Anna Leonowen's story reminded me to be true to the best ideals, and to courageously serve in whatever capacity i am in.

"Light and darkness! So it had been from the beginning and so it was to the end. Was the small good worth its cost, the cup of cold water, the binding of the wounded spirit, the occasional rescue, the word of teaching? Sometimes it was hard to decide whether the little she accomplished outweighed the pain of seeing continually evils she could not rectify.

Whenever she looked at Prince Chulalongkorn and others of her pupils, who were the new generation, the tomorrow of the country, she felt encouraged to hope. Her own personal triumphs seemed small as she totaled them, yet she found on reflection she was glad of each one."

This book was amazing. More so, because it wasn't just a made up story.

Knowing that I love the musical, "The King and I," TJ found and bought for me the book upon which is was based: "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon. Landon wrote this book following ten years of research in Siam, spurred on by reading the two books of Anna Leonowens: "The English Governess at the Siamese Court," and "The Romance of the Harem." Of her book Margaret Landon says, "It is 75% fact, and 25% fiction based on fact."

The editor, Elsie Weil, wrote: "Anna Leonowens was a real person, vivid and impelling, with very strong ideas about freedom, democracy, and the rights of the individual. With these ideas she swept through [King Mongkut's] Palace, in the 1860's, like a clean breeze...Her most important achievement was to implant some of her own idealism in the heart and consciousness of the young prince who was to succeed his father. "Mem cha," he said to her one day, "if I live to reign over Siam, I shall reign over a free and not an enslaved nation." True to his pledge, as King Chulalongkorn, Siam's greatest ruler, he abolished slavery and introduced many social and educational reforms. Many years later, in 1897, Anna met her royal pupil again in London, and had the satisfaction of knowing that her work in Siam had been well done."

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