W.A.R. Wood’s 69 years of Siamese adventures contains – according to the author – “no information which is likely to be of practical use to anybody”. Instead, it consists of lively and charming anecdotes too marvellous to simply be called ‘facts’. When he was just 18 years old, Wood was appointed by Queen Victoria in 1896 as the youngest ever consul in Siam – today’s Thailand – and he left Victorian Britain to explore Siam, starting in Bangkok before travelling throughout the country.
Consul in Paradise embraces all of Siamese life: it describes a racing stable with just one pony and the importance of expertise in beetle fighting, the Siamese language and etiquette, and the many commonsense solutions to legal problems that Wood devised. It captures a time when Wood’s diplomatic duties could include: concocting love potions, exorcising evil spirits (at one time from a rice bin) and creating huge straw hats to protect elephants from sunstroke.
This evocative portrait of a corner of the British Empire, an entertaining encounter between Victorian Britain and Siam, “consists merely of a little of the froth collected by a cork which has floated for 69 years on the seas of Siamese and Anglo-Siamese life”.
“The book is full of good stories, some funny, some gruesome. What gives it its charm is not Mr. Wood’s portrayal of Siam, but his own unconscious portrayal of himself.” – Punch
“But it is the froth one remembers” – New York Times
William Alfred Rae Wood was born in Liverpool in 1878. He arrived in Thailand in 1896 and he died there in 1970. During World War Two he was interned as an enemy alien and also wrote one of the first histories of Thailand, A History of Siam.