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Anna and the King of Siam: 03/31/07
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 of the Harem, Anna and the King of Siam, and The King and I.
This 1950s reprint of the 1945 novel came my way via the old Bookrelay site. I've seen the musical The King and I a number of times as it was one of my grandmother's favorites and she and I spent a lot of time together. I can't say I agree with grandmother on the film. I've always found it a little boring and off-putting. The book suffers from many of the same problems.
The book is long and dry. There are scenes designed for a melodramatic impact but they often fall flat. Landon's descriptions of the scenes reads more like a book report (or perhaps a dull copying job from Leonowen's books?) that are often tedious to read. After having suffered through 352 pages of minutiae one might has well have read a history book on the same subject and at least come away with having learned something!
Anna for all her "good intentions" comes off as so xenophobic that it is hard to believe she has as much influence as the novel would have one believe. I am not expecting a "politically correct" novel but Anna's distrust of her Siamese hosts is extreme compared with similar books I've read from similar eras (both the 1940s and the 1860s).