12 October 2013

Book review: Bangkok, the story of a city (1970), by Alec Waugh, ***

Royal Thai Dynasty

In Bangkok, Alec Waugh has created a most fluent, truthful and affectionate portrait of the dynasty and culture which created it. Cutting through confusion and veiled mystery, he unravels the plots, coups, wars, assassinations, invasions and counter-coups of three hundred years of history as if it were this evening's street gossip. This loving description of the genius, fascination and enduring vitality of Thailand is told with Waugh's customary delight in life and sensual appreciation. The story is brought up-to-date with an afterword by Bruce Palling, former "Times" correspondent in Thailand.


King Rama V Chulalongkorn (1853-1910)
This is a book mostly about the ruling dynasty of Thailand. I was a bit disappointed because I expected a history of the city of Bangkok, which this book is not, even though of course the dinasty resides in the capital. Waugh relies more on anecdotal stories and personal experience than on methodical historical research. He does infuse his narrative with a full flavor and unbound passion however, and just for this it is worth reading this volume. The reader will understand much about intrigue at the court. I would have liked to know about the people of Bangkok, their economic and social issues and the problem they have faced in their everyday life throughout history.

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