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Anna and the King of Siam

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,895 Ratings  ·  203 Reviews
Anna Leonowens, a proper Englishwoman, was an unlikley candidate to change the course of Siamese (Thai) history. A young widow and mother, her services were engaged in the 1860's by King Mongkut of Siam to help him communicate with foreign governments and be the tutor to his children and favored concubines. Stepping off the steamer from London, Anna found herself in an exo ...more
Published 1949 by Pocket Books (first published 1943)
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BAM The Bibliomaniac
I had no idea this was based on a memoir. So I was quite excited to give it a shot. Then I became swallowed in the minutiae of description and filler. I think I made the right choice in audiobook with this one. I think a person interested in Siam or that area of Asia in the mid 1800s may find this book interesting; otherwise, it becomes rather flat with constant recitation of children's lessons. I'm glad I read it, but dare I say this...I think I'd rather see the movie.
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really had no idea what to expect when I read this, knowing what I know about both the musical and the more recent movie with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat and how musicals really compare to books (I've read the book and seen on Broadway Wicked, after all).

It was really interesting to start with the preface by Margaret Landon and learn more about Anna Leonowens. It made me once again glad that I read prefaces, because it put me in the right state of mind to read this book.

One of the first thin
Sarah Sammis
Jun 21, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released
Anna and the King of Siam is a fictional account of an English teacher's two volume "memoir" that had long gone out of print. Margaret Landon combined these two books together into a historical novel. As there are so many points of elaboration it is hard to get any real sense of the events that might have actually taken place back in the 1860s. A quick search online will bring up numerous opinions and essays on the story in its many forms: The English Governess at the Siamese Court, The Romance ...more
Jul 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read- I love Thailand and this was an interesting look into its past. The writing style comes across somewhat disorganized and apparently there is some dispute into the veracity of all of her claims. What did I learn from this- there are strong women all over the world who can and do make a difference. As Margaret Landon wrote of some of the Thai women "they were not surpassed by the women of any nation in the world. But the system under which they lived! That was the crux of the m ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Anna and the King of Siam started out on a really high note.

I loved the description that dripped with atmosphere, the characters were spunky and unique, and the best part was that it was based off a true story!

But then it went on. And on. And on. And ON. The description never ended and the plot never started. Since it is based on a true story, I'm not sure there is a particular plot.

It was a struggle to finish.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memior-biography
For anyone who has watched the Rogers and Hammerstein musical and believes that they know the story of Anna Lenowens' inspiring experiences in Siam, this book will shock you to the core. "Anna and the King of Siam" chronicles the educational and political challenges faced by this English schoolteacher in a transitional time in Siamese history with uncensored brutality, hope, despair, and redemptive compassion. This is one of the most worthwhile and remarkable books I have ever had the privilege ...more
Laura C.
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Anna Leonowens was a real woman and this really happened, and that statement alone seems crazy when you read the book. This is a fabulous story about one woman who happened to be British when the English ruled the world. Behind the familiar story of “The King and I” (which a lone is pretty fabulous!) is the story of Anna’s determination to make the most of the situation she found herself in. It is true that the Brits bowed to no one but their queen and that attitude of “Noblese obligue” gave her ...more
Stacey Conrad
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2017
I first read this story many years, ago. I did a quick reread just before we went to see the musical. I still like it.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: la
The story is familiar to those who have seen The King and I. This book filled in some details about Anna's life, but it read more like a report than a novel.
Kim Hampton
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as part of a book club. It's not something I would normally pick up on my own, but I really enjoyed it. The descriptions of life in Siam were vivid and interesting, and I was moved by how much Anna devoted herself to helping the women and slaves. I can't wait to see the film!
Fabiana Rodriguez Aguilar
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book.

I am a passionate about Asia's history, but I had a really hard time reading Anna and the King of Siam. I found the story of Anna interesting, but the book is written in some sort of small and brief stories, it feels that every chapter is a new one. It was because of this that I feel it is lacking a plot and a climax, the suspense or the emotion that keeps me turning pages. It took me almost two months to reach to Chapte
Deidre Scott
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the book once you get past the background information, but after reading other's reviews I did not realize that because Siam (Thailand) was such an unknown place at the time that this book was published, that the extensive explanations on the surroundings may have been because it was such an unknown to many people. It really made me rethink those sections of the book.
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1951 the well-known Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” premiered on Broadway. The basis for the musical play is this book, published in 1944. There really was an Englishwoman who traveled with her son to Bangkok to serve as a school teacher for the many children (and some of their mothers) of the King of Siam in 1862 (he really did have a harem of concubines). Her name was Anna Leonowens. She was recently widowed (her husband had been a British officer serving in the Far East) a ...more
"She and the King were more than ...King and governess -. they were friends"
By sally tarbox on 30 November 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
The source of the musical, this biography of Anna Leonowens, governess to the Siamese royal children, was published in 1945. The author states that she worked from Anna's own memoirs; unfortunately more recent research proves that she re-invented herself significantly through these works; thus her girlhood in Wales, her first visit to Bombay aged 15, so well descri
Jun 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book.

In 1862, British governess Anna Leonowens was engaged by the King Mongkut, King of Siam, to be the governess of his children.
During the 6 years of her stay in Siam, Anna witnessed a lot, learned much about the culture, traditions, beliefs of this country, but most of all she tried to leave her mark upon the fresh minds of the princes and princesses.
During her stay also, she was almost always in opposition with King Mongku
If you love Rogers and Hammerstein's "The King and I," you will love Landon's "Anna and the King of Siam." She combined two books written by Anna Leonowens with original source material from the Library of Congress to create a beautifully written account of Anna Leonowens' time in Siam.

As I read about the harem of the king and the brutal class distinction in Siam, I couldn't help but think that this book is a perfect portrait of what a society in bondage looks like. Rather than believing in the
Vivian Adram
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had played the tiniest part in the movie Anna and the King, starring Jodie Foster & Chow Yuen Fatt as Anna and King Mongkut respectively. Further to this, the movie was shot in my hometown of Penang, where we the locals saw modern day Penang, turn into aincent Siam. It was a wonder. Besides this, Anna's husbands tomb is also found in Penang, Mr. Thomas Leonowens plus I have always loved the older silver screen version of this story; The King and I, where Yul Brynner played the role of the ...more
Brian Eshleman
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This work was extremely well done. The characters were intriguing, the atmosphere crafted in detail, and its lessons applied to life outside of its covers.

In particular, I think Anna would make a compelling heroin for older girls or young adult women. She admits fear to herself, but she refuses to let it determine her actions. She has an overriding sense of honor, but she is flexible in how she accomplishes what she sees as honorable outcomes. By putting her heroine against a real and flawed bac
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In spite of the interesting subject matter, this really isn’t a very good book at all. Margaret Landon has certainly done her research but has relied too much on Anna Leonowen’s own memoir which, as I understand it, is hardly the unvarnished truth. There is some fascinating detail in the novel, for sure, some atmospheric evocations of the Siamese Court and many glimpses into contemporary life, but on the whole Anna herself comes across as unconvincing at best and imperialistic at worst, and her ...more
Jun 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
Oh, I loved this book to pieces. It was the first "Asia" book I read after I decide I was moving... to Asia. So when I think of it I have such great associations. When I read it, I felt like *I* was going to be like Anna Leonides (or whatever) *I* was going to be educating the king's children and combing through the street markets and telling the king's wives that snow existed (but they wouldn't believe me!) and trying to stop the king from executing one of his concubines. And then I would make ...more
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read! I'd never read the original, and am currently looking for a copy of the movie just to see how it differs. I know that I've seen the movie, and my memory leads me to believe that it's not at all the same. It's statement about slavery and the ownership of people is something I didn't expect when I began the book.
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the novel, based on the non-fiction book. Which eventually became "The King and I". Each a little more removed from what actually happened.
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, audiobooks
Many of them, seeing that she was not afraid to oppose the King, imagined that she had more than human powers. So not only the poor, but the highly placed ladies of the harem came to her secretly with their grievances. Without intent, she found herself set up between the oppressor and the oppressed.

Anna and the King of Siam , by Margaret Landon, was originally published in 1944 and told the story about Anna Leonowens and her time as an English governess and teacher to the royal Siamese children
I had picked this book up because I thought it would be interesting to read the book that the musical was adapted from.....well, I was disappointed for sure.

I did not really enjoy this book that much. While we did get to explore a tiny bit of the world of Siam, we saw it through Anna's rose coloured glasses. I did not think she was entirely open minded about Siam and their culture and way of life. I felt like she was constantly criticizing them and held herself in high regard given that she was
Hannah Mead
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
Imagine moving to a far off country. In order to do so, you have to leave behind everyone and everything you’ve ever known, plus you have to leave one of your children behind. You enter into that country with no way of knowing for sure what your reception will be. You know barely anyone there, you know not a word of their language, and yet you are expected to teach English. Imagine that you become part of the highest court in the land, let into an elite group that very few ever get to come into. ...more
I read this for the Popsugar category of "a book on which a movie I'd already seen was based". Of course my viewing of 'The King and I' goes back decades, to the Yul Brynner version but I remember enough to know that this is much more in-depth than the movie. But of course it would pretty much have to be. Set in the mid 1860's, Siam (now Thailand) was so different that it took a lot of description to explain the culture of slave-holding, prostration to the monarch and harems, and there were all ...more
Angie Orlando
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew that a book inspired both the musical and movie call The King and I. What I didn't know was that Anna was an actual person whose teachings led to major changes in Siam. This book is a novel. The author claims it is 75% fact and 25 percent fiction based on fact. At times the book seems bogged down by endless descriptions of the exotic nature of life and Siam. Of course, in 1941, when this book was written, a place like Siam was a hidden, totally unknown world of horrors and paradise. The m ...more
Deborah Wellum
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable story about a very brave governess who taught the children of the king of Siam in the late 1800’s. Her influence in particular upon his heir apparent who eventually became king changed the direction of the country. A great reminder that anything worth doing requires hard work, sacrifice and often some degree of suffering. The value of a quality education cannot be underestimated as proven in this situation. One life in only 5 years, with a huge impact can do nothing but inspire others ...more
JoAnne Styger
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: homeschool
I read this because I had my daughter (11) read it for school and I heard there were heavy themes. I'm so glad I did. The book is based on Anna Leonowenes' memoir. Her vision for her work is a powerful example to young women. She overcame the great difficulty of her husband's death and bravely became the governess to Saiam's (now Thailand) royal family. The theme of slavery is prominent and slightly graphic. I highly recommend this book for children studying Asia or US history Civil War era.
Mary Dalton
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Loved this book as a child, and it was even better decades later. I'm baffled by people who found this slow. The setting is exotic, the characters (especially the women) are memorable, and the relationship between the two main characters is unlike any other in history that I am aware of. Highly recommended!
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2015 Reading Chal...: Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon 2 16 May 14, 2015 07:47AM  
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Margaret Landon (September 7, 1903 - December 4, 1993) was an American writer who became famous for Anna and the King of Siam, her 1944 novel of the life of Anna Leonowens. Her book on Leonowens was published in 1944 and became an instant bestseller. It eventually sold over a million copies and was published in more than twenty languages. In 1950, Mrs. Landon sold the musical play rights to Richar ...more
More about Margaret Landon...

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“He searched for words to poison the shaft of his disdain.” 2 likes
“Perhaps, she had dreamed, she would teach some future King, shaping his child mind for a new and better world.” 1 likes
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