Engrossing retelling of an extraordinary life, correcting many popular misconceptions.

BOMBAY ANNA

THE REAL STORY AND REMARKABLE ADVENTURES OF THE KING AND I GOVERNESS

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 1944 bestseller, Anna and the King of Siam. Seven years later, Rodgers and Hammerstein transformed her story into the blockbuster Broadway musical, The King and I. Both versions of Leonowens’s life were partial and not terribly accurate, notes Morgan (English/Miami Univ; Place Matters: Gendered Geography in Victorian Women’s Travel Writings About Southeast Asia, 1996, etc.). This wasn’t very surprising, however, since she invented and reinvented her own character as it suited her over the years. Morgan gives us the real woman, born Anna Harriet Edwards to a mixed-race teenage mother and a British soldier in the lowest ranks of the Indian army. Anna Harriet ran wild in the cantonments of multicultural Bombay before marrying Thomas Leon Owens, a clerk who took her to Australia and then to Malaysia before leaving her a widow with two small children in 1859. Leonowens arrived in Singapore six weeks later with a refurbished surname and a brand-new identity as a Caucasian, aristocratic English lady—just the sort the local gentry wanted to instruct their offspring. She went to work for King Mongkut of Siam in 1862, but the most famous portion of her life lasted only five years; by 1867, she had disembarked in New York to begin another career as an anti-slavery lecturer and author. “Appreciating the sheer inclusiveness of Anna’s varied life,” Morgan writes, “means trading in a narrow view of biography as a matter of individual achievement for a wider vision of the historical and personal range that composes even one individual’s history.” While her prose may occasionally be overly academic for the lay reader, Morgan paints a satisfying, multifaceted portrait.

Engrossing retelling of an extraordinary life, correcting many popular misconceptions.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-520-25226-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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