When I was in school, the one subject I used to dread was history. So I thought, the books that were anywhere close to history, would never be my cup of tea (or coffee). But when I started to read “The King in Exile,” by Sudha Shah on 12th of January 2103, I finished 89 pages of the book in one sitting. I give credit to the author for that. Though the names are difficult especially of the daughters and the grandchildren of the King but still I felt a lot of effort has gone into the book. I read the book after that in bits and pieces because I was reading The Glass Palace along with this book and this book provided me with a lot of extra knowledge which made the story in The Glass Palace more interesting. She has supplemented the book with photographs. The timeline mentioned at the end is actually a very good ready reference.
This book is about the life of King Thibaw, the last king of Burma, and his family. The book starts with the childhood of Thibaw and Supalayat, his reign as the King, his exile in Ratnagiri, India and later years of the family.
He became the King in 1879 and ruled for seven years from Mandalay. In 1885, after losing their kingdom is a war against Britain, the King and his family were exiled to Ratnagiri in India where they lived for 31 years. The British seized his riches and property and gave the family a meager allowance. They were closely guarded and had to get approval for everything: how much money they could spend, who they could meet, who they could hire, even for holding rituals like the ear boring ceremony. The four princesses grew up with the staff of their house. Though the queen taught them all the housework including, sewing, cooking, making paper flowers, the princesses were little or not educated.
The King died in 1916 in Ratnagiri and the queen and the three princesses went back to Rangoon in 1919. She has even described the lives of the four princesses and their children and grand children in details. Queen Supalayat died in 1825. The first princess returned to Ratnagiri and stayed there till she died in 1947 after living a life of poverty. The second princess lived in Kalimpong with her family and died in 1956. The third and the fourth princesses lived in Burma, the third princess died in 1962 while the fourth princess died in 1936.
What I found most interesting about the family was that even though they were going through a final crisis, they were still generous even the grandchildren.
The book is very unique in concept and very well presented.
Book Source: Bought
Publisher: harper Collins