Anna and the King of Siam
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Based on the incredible true story of one woman’s journey to the exotic world of nineteenth-century Siam, the riveting novel that inspired The King and I.
In 1862, recently widowed and with two small children to support, British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens agrees to serve as governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (present-day Thailand), unaware that her years in the royal palace will change not only her own life, but also the future of a nation. Her relationship with King Mongkut, famously portrayed by Yul Brynner in the classic film The King and I, is complicated from the start, pitting two headstrong personalities against each other: While the king favors tradition, Anna embraces change.
As governess, Anna often finds herself at cross-purposes, marveling at the foreign customs, fascinating people, and striking landscape of the kingdom and its harems, while simultaneously trying to influence her pupils—especially young Prince Chulalongkorn—with her Western ideals and values. Years later, as king, this very influence leads Chulalongkorn to abolish slavery in Siam and introduce democratic reform based on the ideas of freedom and human dignity he first learned from his beloved tutor.
This captivating novel brilliantly combines in-depth research—author Margaret Landon drew from Siamese court records and Anna’s own writings—with richly imagined details to create a lush portrait of 1860s Siam. As a Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical and an Academy Award–winning film, the story of Anna and the King of Siam has enchanted millions over the years. It is a gripping tale of cultural differences and shared humanity that invites readers into a vivid and sensory world populated by unforgettable characters.
“An inviting escape into an unfamiliar, exotic past. Ms. Landon’s is one calculated to transport us instantly.” —TheNew York Times
“An enchanting book. The author wears her scholarship with grace, and the amazing story she has to tell is recounted with humor and understanding. And what a story it is!” —The Atlantic Monthly
Margaret Landon (1903–1993) was an American author best known for her bestselling novel Anna and the King of Siam, which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I. After graduating from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1925, she married Kenneth Landon, a seminary student, and worked briefly as a schoolteacher. In 1927, Landon and her husband volunteered to serve as Presbyterian missionaries in Siam (present-day Thailand), where she learned of Anna Leonowens, the nineteenth-century governess and tutor to the royal family of Siam. Landon’s novel based on Leonowens’s life has sold over one million copies and been translated into more than twenty languages.