Prisna by Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit – Book Review
Prisna is a coming of age story of a young modern Siamese women who was brought up in America, away from her traditional Thai family. Prisna is the youngest among her 4 sisters.
This thai story begins when Prisna returns to Phra Nakhon in 1938. Her headstrong, intelligent and opinionated personality does take her some time to adjust to Siamese society.
However, she makes heads of young bachelors turn and is welcomed in most social situations.
The story revolves around Prisna, meeting members of society and taking part in social events. Along the way, we meet many interesting characters that shapes Prisna’s and Tan Chai’s love story.
The depiction of a classy lifestyle, romance and drama made this story popular for almost half a century. There are many TV show adaptations of this classic. One of the well known adaptations is this prissana thai drama (prissana 2015).
This is the gist of this classic Siamese literature. You can read the full synopsis here.
Author: Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit (Translated by Tulachandra)
Genre: Asian Literature, Romance
Location: Phra Nakhon, Thailand
Publisher: Penguin Random House SEA
Photo by @soniasingh_
I would like to thank Times Reads for sending me copies of both volumes to give my honest review.
This book is one of the two titles in Penguin SEA’s new Southeast Asian Classics range.
Prisna or Prissana means mystery, riddle or puzzle.
I thought this was perfectly reflected in the cover art. If you look closely, you can see a maze on the cover. The cover artwork is by Devangana Dash.
Of course, in 1938, Prisna was definitely a puzzle to some people in Thai society. She was raised in America by her uncle and therefore was not a conventional, stereotypical young Asian woman.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it for you. The way this girl breaks gender norms is amusing!
Who is Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit?
When I found out that I’m reading a piece of Thailand literature, written by a noble member of the Royal family, I was honoured. Besides, I was more inspired than ever knowing that Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit wrote Prisna when she was only 18 years old during World War II.
If you search for Prisna on the web, you might come across an author name that goes by V. Na Pramuanmarg. This is the pen name for Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit.
Along with Prisna, V. Na Pramuanmarg also wrote classics such as Ratanavadi (a female character in Prisna) and Anond’s Bride (I’m assuming this is the character Anonda in Prisna).
These three books are part of a trilogy. Knowing this, I can’t wait to read the other two.
the author ran into the printing house that was caught on fire to save the manuscript of Prisna, which turned out to be one of the most popular pieces of literature in Thai history.
Unfortunately, the author passed away in the year 1977, when the communist insurgents shot the helicopter in which she rode in.
Photo by @nat.is.reading
What I Liked About The Book
1. The Protagonist Lives Up To Her Name.
Prisna is one funny and unpredictable character. Her strong and bold personality often calls her to act unconventionally.
She definitely puzzles many.
Besides her personality being the root of it all, her American upbringing bleeds through.
I don’t want to reveal too much about it. As you read, you’ll be able to see how she lives up to her name.
2. It’s Not All About Prisna
There is more to the book other than the main character and her love story.
Unlike the title of the book, Prisna, the story is more than just a single character.
There were many important characters that shaped Prisna’s life and love story in Phra Nakhon and these characters definitely had their moments.
In fact, the first volume did a great introduction to other characters and we can see major character development in the second volume.
Which brings me to point three!
3. Relationships Within Family and Society.
This is my top reason when recommending the book to someone. I LOVE how the author portrayed relationships among family, friends and society.
This was a very heart-warming read and I can say this is mostly because of the relationship the four sisters have among themselves and their mother. Always there for one another, always learning new things from each other and of course, fights happen too. But it was so wholesome, I really loved it.
It was also fun to read about their friends, some of them like Tan Chai and Pravij were charming.
And yes, some awful characters were present too, which just made the story even more intriguing.
Therefore, the diversity of characters and their relationships with one another really kept me engaged throughout the book.
As for society, it really did bring me to 1930s Thailand, among the highest class of society. Where there were parties, balls, dances, holidays and so much more! If you like historical fiction, you’ll definitely enjoy this aspect of the story.
4. The Writing.
The writing really captivated me to read further. It had a poetic ring to it and was translated well. It was easy to follow.
I like how Vol 1 introduced the characters to us, made us develop an attachment to these character. The first volume wasn’t much about Prisna, we really got to know others in the story and that really kept me invested.
I am attached to all the characters now and cannot have enough of them. LOL.
The love story between the hero and heroine only bloomed in volume 2, which I’m not mad about.
Photo by @nat.is.reading
What I Did Not Like About The Book
1. Stereotypical Gender Roles
This one did irk me while reading but I understood that,
- The book was set in an Asian country, Thailand and
- The book was set in the 1930s.
With that, it is obvious that gender roles were more prominent during those days.
In addition to stereotypical gender roles, I also did get annoyed at the men consistently objectifying women.
But then again, these two factors exist even in 2021, it is obviously something that existed back then and the author portrayed it well.
2. Romance Could Be Better
I’m a romance reader and a hopeless romantic, so in my opinion, the romance here could be more developed.
However, I can close one eye because the author was only 18 when she wrote it and she did not lack in other areas of the story such as characters and plot.
3. Confusing Names
Now before you come at me, this isn’t the fault of the author or translater or anyone else.
It is simply because I am not familiar with Thai names and it seems one person has more than one, especially if they have a certain status in society.
I did not know Tan Chai and Puthpreecha was the same person and therefore was confused up till halfway of the first Volume.
Again, this is my fault for not having the knowledge and I’m stating it here so you don’t get confused too!
My Favourite Character
My favourite character would be Anong, the third among four sisters. The reason because she is selfless, skilled in important homemaking skills, sensitive yet a strong women.
She cares for her family, especially her younger sister, Prisna. She always wants what is best for others and often forgets about her own needs.
“Here, i’m not doing anything for anybody, although they keep saying that I cheer them up just by sticking around, but how can that be enough to justify my existence?” -Prisna
‘A perfect companion’ thought Prisna, as she glanced down at him. ‘Affectionate but undemanding, spirited but disciplined’
“You can’t stop loving a person just because he turns out to be unworthy of your love, or-” -Anong
“Time heals all wounds but scars remain” -Mrs Samorm
Death means remembering no more, and not knowing that you’re remembered.
Final Thoughts and Rating
Prisna is a wholesome and heart-warming story. I loved it so much and wish I could read it for the first time again.
I am very attached to the characters and I’m hoping Penguin SEA will translate the other two works by the author as they were characters in Prisna.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely.
Who would I recommend it to? Anyone who loves romance, historical fiction and Asian literature.
My personal rating: ⅘ cups of coffee.
It is a gem. I’m so glad I read this book!
If you have read this book, or would like to know more about this book, please feel free to chat with me on any one of my social platforms. More people really need to get their hands on this Asian classic!