She Was a Queen

Maurice Collis, Author New Directions Publishing Corporation $12.95 (301p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1169-7
This tale of a peasant girl who rises to nobility in 13th-century Burma and must contend with courtly intrigue and plots of murder was written in 1936 by Collis, who lived in Burma for 20 years. He describes the fall of the Pagan dynasty, based on characters and events drawn from the official account of Burmese history, the Hmannan Yazawin, or Glass Palace Chronicle. From the time a deadly snake miraculously spares her life, it is evident that great things are destined for the peasant girl Ma Saw. By the age of 16, her beauty and charm have won the affections of King Usana, who is so taken with Ma Saw that he elevates her from concubine to Deputy Queen. When the king is killed by an elephant, Ma Saw must align herself with new political interests, and many of the actors are not as benevolent and judicious as she. The novel is too dark to be considered a fairy tale and too simple in tone and language to be hailed as a forgotten treasure, but Collis's story of dirty royal dealings and blood rivalries is frequently diverting. This new edition marks the book's first publication in the U.S. Illustrated. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1991
Release date: 06/01/1991
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