Four Reigns by Kukrit PramojRead about the other entries on the list.
Kukrit’s epic novel follows one woman’s life spanning the reigns of four kings – Rama V to Rama VIII – from the 1890s to the second world war.
At the age of 10, Phloi goes to live in the royal palace in Bangkok with her mother, who serves as a minor courtier. Phloi’s eventful life inside and outside the palace – as daughter, sister, wife and mother – reflects the enormous changes taking place in the country. Traditional Siam is buffeted by historic events at home and abroad – a palace revolution, two world wars, Japanese occupation, allied bombing – as it evolves into modern Thailand.
After the absolute monarchs are forced to become constitutional rulers, “the air is thick with politics”. That, along with increasing western influence and the turbulence of the second world war, causes fissures in society that intrude into Phloi’s family.
This leisurely paced novel is both intriguing and entertaining. And despite being bathed in conservative nostalgia, offers a fascinating insight into the country.
Four Reigns is regarded as a classic in Thailand and has often been staged and serialised on TV.
Kukrit was something of a renaissance man – Thai prime minister, journalist and newspaper proprietor, Hollywood film actor and classical dancer. He died in 1995.