The Mistress of Nothing Paperback – Aug 10 2009
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"Pullinger is equally unerring at conveying the subtle cruelties of power relationships and the incremental dawnings of love and affection. Coupled with this is an almost painterly ability to depict an Egypt alternately parched and sumptuous – both literally and metaphorically."
“I couldn't stop reading this wonderful book and was sad when it was over. Kate Pullinger's skill is to make you feel like the confidante of her strong and unconventional heroine as she journeys down the Nile into the greatest adventure of her life. Highly recommended.” (Julia Gregson)
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2009 Governor General's Literary Award for English language fiction.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Author: Kate Pullinger
Publisher: McArthur & Company
'The Mistress of Nothing' was a riveting tale. Sally's parents died when she was young. Sally's aunt was unable or chose not to care for her and sent her to work. Both she and her sister began working as maid's for well to do women. Sally eventually begins working for Lady Duff Gordon. When Lady Duff Gordon is stricken with tuberculosis she is exiled to Egypt . Accompanying her is Sally. Lady Duff Gordon is hoping the dryer, warmer weather will be favourable in her condition making it easier to breath and prolonging her life. The story takes place mostly in Egypt, and a new life begins for both Sally and Lady Duff Gordon.
Sally sees herself as a spinster, although she doesn't know when this happened. She is now thirty and not married. She is devoted to Lady Duff Gordon and believes that she will always be her protector. Eventually, Lady Duff Gordon and Sally are forced to unfasten their constricted english clothing and settle for lighter, cooler Egyptian clothing. The two of them become accustomed to life in Egypt, adapting to the lifestyles and language. Omar is hired to help the ladies, and teach the ways of life in Egypt. Sally falls in love with married Omar and becomes pregnant. Sally is sure that Lady Duff Gordon will continue to protect her, since she has helped many in her situation before. Omar has decided he will marry Sally, as Egyptian law will allow him two wives. Fellow Egyptians are not scandalized, they are accepting of Sally. What happens next is not expected. Lady Duff Gordon is appalled by Sally's actions.Read more ›
The story is well written; I really liked Pullinger's sparse style. The premise was interesting and I loved the way Sally's first view of Egypt from their boat was described. Her sense of awe and her joy were conveyed perfectly. I also really enjoyed all of the details of Egyptian life.
A couple of elements made the book unsatisfying, despite the good writing. First, the love story between Sally and Omar seemed unrealistic. There wasn't any build-up leading to it, it just happened and even though Sally is aware that Omar is already married, that fact never really comes into play until very late in the story. That left me wondering the entire time, 'But what about...?' In addition, Lady Duff Gordon's reaction to Sally and Omar's relationship seems very inconsistent with the way her character was developed throughout the novel and is never explained. In the end, I was left with more questions than any resolutions to the story.
When Sarah, a lady's maid, accompanies her ailing mistress to Egypt, they enter into a world completely different than England. As they assimilate into the culture, and shed their corsets along with some confining rules of English society, the two women become comfortable in their new surrounds. When Sally falls in love with Omar, her lady's dragoman, the idyllic life they enjoy begins to unravel. Sally is faced with some hard decisions when she realizes she risks losing everything.
The Mistress of Nothing was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and won the Governor General's Award for Fiction in Canada in 2009. To read this novel was pure enjoyment. A poignant description of 19th century social values and prejudices prevalent, the reader is swept into the exotic world of 19th century Egypt. The author skillfully drew me into the story, creating romantic suspense as Sally's life unfolds with unanticipated turbulence. It kept me on the edge of my seat, turning pages.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I chose this book because I heard on CBC it had something to do with Brooks, Alberta and I work in Brooks part-time. Read morePublished on Sept. 23 2013 by Joan MacIntyre
The book was picked for our Book club for March so we haven't discussed it yet. I finished it just a few days ago. Read morePublished on Feb. 21 2013 by Karen Mudge
I admit that the premise of the 2009 Governor General's Award for fiction didn't exactly excite me: Lady Duff-Gordon, a passionate intellectual suffering from tuberculosis, moves... Read morePublished on May 30 2011 by Reader Writer Runner
Those are just a few of the adjectives that immediately come to mind. As a Canadian, I am shocked and embarrassed that this book won the Governor General's award. Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2010 by Bethann McLaren
For me, it was more than just a story - there was a real history here describing what life was actually like at the turn of the century.Published on July 13 2010 by MS JUDI ROY