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According to Morgan, the inspiration for the governess to the royal Siamese children in the 1950s musical The King and I,Anna Leonowens (1831-1915) was not the genteel British lady she purported to be, but a low-born, Anglo-Indian army brat who had severed ties with her family in India. A young widow living in Singapore, Leonowens was hired by King Mongkut to teach his wives and 82 children English. An absolute monarch committed to improving his people's lives and avoiding foreign control of his country, Mongkut had no romantic interest in Leonowens but shared her deep love of learning, occasionally consulted her on state issues and considered her arguments about the treatment of his enslaved harem. After Siam, the irrepressible Leonowens again reinvented herself as an eminent author and public lecturer in the U.S. and Canada, a social reformer and suffragist in Canada, a journalist in Russia and a Sanskrit scholar in Germany. Miami University English professor Morgan (Place Matters) uncovers and competently demonstrates the achievements of an extraordinary Victorian woman, but her biography is undermined by repetitious and charmless prose, underdeveloped analyses of Western/Thai political relationships and unfocused ramblings about the nature of biography. 15 b&w photos. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.