This 1870 memoir, which was the basis for the musical The King and I, vividly recounts the experiences of Anna Harriette Leonowens, who served as a governess for the sixty-plus children of King Mongkut of Siam and as translator and scribe for the King himself. Bright, young, and energetic, Leonowens was well-suited to her role, and her writings convey a heartfelt interest in the lives, legends, and languages of Siam’s rich and poor.
She also tells of how she and the king often disagreed on matters domestic—this was the first time King Mongkut had met a woman who dared to contradict him, and the governess found the very idea of male domination intolerable. Her exchanges with His Majesty on topics like grammar, charity, slavery, politics, and religion add much to her diary’s rich, cross-cultural spirit and its East-meets-West appeal.
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"Read this one first, then find a copy of Bombay Anna. You'll be in for a surprise.
Rebecca (4 out of 5 stars)