The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Bombay Anna, by Susan Morgan

This is the real story of the woman who inspired the musical “The King and I.” As Susan Morgan shows, if you believe the theatrical versions of her life, then everything you thought you knew about this woman was wrong.

For starters, Anna Leonowen was not born in England or Wales — she was born in India, of an Irish father and a mixed-race mother. Had she been born in, say, the 1970s, she’d probably be an attorney, college professor, or some other profession requiring great intelligence. But she lacked such opportunities in mid-1800s India. So, upon being widowed in her late 20s, Anna took her two children to Singapore, where she gave herself a new identity that matched her abilities. Part of that false identity included being British and, to keep from being discovered, she favored Americans in her social life. Soon after the move to Singapore, she was asked to serve as teacher to the children of the King of Siam, where she also occasionally consulted with the King on affairs of state. That was also where she became an anti-slavery activist, influencing the crown prince so much that he abolished slavery shortly after he became king a number of years later. Anna eventually moved on, first to the United States and then to Canada, where she wrote about her experiences in the Siamese court, gave lectures, taught, and helped raise her grandchildren.

It took me a bit longer than usual to read this book, but I thought it was well worth the effort. Morgan is a professor at Miami University, but her writing style is accessible and appropriate for a mainstream audience. Her research seemed thorough, and she informed the reader whenever she moved from fact to speculation. If the subject interests you at all, buy the book — in other words, I’m recommending it.

Since the purpose of this blog is to give a heads-up to animal lovers who are concerned about the fate of animal characters, I’ll address that now: this book is SAFE for animal lovers. There are no animal characters, and only a few fleeting references to animals. Enjoy!

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January 2, 2010 - Posted by | Book Reviews, history | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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