Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the <i>King and I</i> Governess

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University of California Press, Jul 7, 2008 - Literary Criticism - 300 pages
If you thought you knew the story of Anna in The King and I, think again. As this riveting biography shows, the real life of Anna Leonowens was far more fascinating than the beloved story of the Victorian governess who went to work for the King of Siam. To write this definitive account, Susan Morgan traveled around the globe and discovered new information that has eluded researchers for years. Anna was born a poor, mixed-race army brat in India, and what followed is an extraordinary nineteenth-century story of savvy self-invention, wild adventure, and far-reaching influence. At a time when most women stayed at home, Anna Leonowens traveled all over the world, witnessed some of the most fascinating events of the Age of Empire, and became a well-known travel writer, journalist, teacher, and lecturer. She remains the one and only foreigner to have spent significant time inside the royal harem of Siam. She emigrated to the United States, crossed all of Russia on her own just before the revolution, and moved to Canada, where she publicly defended the rights of women and the working class. The book also gives an engrossing account of how and why Anna became an icon of American culture in The King and I and its many adaptations.

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BOMBAY ANNA: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of The King and I Governess

User Review  - Kirkus

Probing biography of a woman who did a lot more than whistle a happy tune.Anna Leonowens (1831-1915) became famous decades after her death as the well-born, gently bred governess in Margaret Landon's ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - juglicerr - LibraryThing

This is an interesting book, and well-worth reading, but marred by dithering when the author has to confront Anna Leonowen's lies. Although the author has obviously done a great deal of research, she ... Read full review


1 Introduction
2 Ancestors
3 A Company Childhood
4 Daughter of the Deccan
5 Love and Bombay at Last
6 Metamorphosis
7 A Teacher and a King
8 A Job in a Palace
11 The Paths to Goodbye
12 An American Writer
13 The Canadian Grande Dame
14 Shall We Dance?
Appendix One
Appendix Two
Select Bibliography

9 The Noble and Devoted Women Whom I Learned to Know to Esteem and to Love
10 Settled in Bangkok

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About the author (2008)

Susan Morgan, Distinguished Professor of English at Miami University, is the author of Place Matters: Gendered Geography in Victorian Women's Travel Writings about Southeast Asia, among other books.

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