countdown boutiques-francophones Learn more scflyout Home All-New Kindle sports tools Registry

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on February 24, 2010
Title: The Mistress of Nothing
Author: Kate Pullinger
Publisher: McArthur & Company
Pages: 248
Source: Publisher

'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. She wants nothing to do with her, does not want to see her and has vowed to send her back to England and send her child to live with Omar's first and true wife.

I was engrossed in this riveting historical novel. As always historical novels make me curious, and I will do a little more research on Lady Duff Gordon. The story did not end how I wanted it to, but that does not make it less of a novel. The writing is astounding. The story picks up pace around the second half. I mostly read it in one day, I could not put it down. Highly recommended! The Governor General award is well deserved and justified in my opinion.

*I missed the bus because I was so engrossed in this novel.
0Comment| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 16, 2010
In 1865, Lady Lucie Duff Gordon's Letters From Egypt were published, telling of her experiences as well-respected English woman forced to relocate to a warmer climate in order to survive tuberculosis. In her letters, she mentions Sally, her lady's maid, but gives very little information about her. With this novel, Kate Pullinger attempts to fill that gap and tell Sally's story.

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.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Canadian novelist Kate Pullinger has written a real winner of a novel in her latest creation, "The Mistress of Nothing". This story offers the reader a chance to look at the values of Victorian society as they play out in the life of an English maid, Sally, who is experiencing the first time the freedom of living in another culture. Based on an interpretation of the diaries of Lady Lucie Duff Gordon's travels to the Egypt in the late 1860s, Pullinger retells her harrowing adventure through the personal observations and wonderment of her devoted servant who has never travelled abroad before. Lady Gordon is a desperately sick woman in search of a cure for her consumption and relies on Sally and her other household servants for her every need. It will not be long before a tension forms between the pull of English society and that of the Levantine. The opportunities of the Nile will gradually seduce Sally into adopting a new lifestyle that will put at serious odds with her accustomed upbringing. This historical fiction is full of moments where the reader gets to share in the delight Sally feels as she encounters a culture that is vastly different from the prim and proper one she has just left in England. Being the curious and innocent type that she is, Sally longs to meet people, learn their language, and see the sights of an ancient world. Holding her back, however, is her obligation to her ladyship for giving her a respectable station in life. Eventually her duty to the tyrannical demands of her mistress will conflict with her growing love for Omar, an Egyptian man who acts as Lady Gordon's butler. Out of that love affair comes a child who then becomes the new focus of her affections as she seeks to make a life for him in a strange land that is so opposite to what she is used to. By this time she has broken so many mores that she becomes a virtual outcast stranded in a foreign land. She will have to overcome the curse of living between the dominate English culture that repels and the uncertain Egyptian one that entices. There are moments of extreme anxiety in this tale where cultures physically clash; when individuals are forced to declare their loyalty; and life serves up some very interesting and pleasant surprises. Sally's narrative is essentially one of a continually futile desire make others happy while enjoying her own happiness. In the end, it is her patience, humility, and undying love for her child and her husband that survives the tests of time. I recommend this book for what it has to say about how cultures often clash through history and how, over time, they have a satisfying way of merging to yield a greater understanding of life.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Lady Duff Gordon is the toast of Victorian London society. But when her debilitating tuberculosis means exile, she and her devoted lady's maid, Sally, set sail for Egypt. It is Sally who describes, with a mixture of wonder and trepidation, the odd menage (marshalled by the resourceful Omar) that travels down the Nile to a new life in Luxor. When Lady Duff Gordon undoes her stays and takes to native dress, throwing herself into weekly salons, language lessons and excursions to the tombs, Sally too adapts to a new world, which affords her heady and heartfelt freedoms never known before. But freedom is a luxury that a maid can ill-afford, and when Sally grasps more than her status entitles her to, she is brutally reminded that she is mistress of nothing.

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. Beyond its wonderfully creative plot, the novel truly is a statement of profound contrast and the ability for people to adapt or fail in the face of adversity. A highly satisfying read and one I highly recommend.
The Blighted Troth
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 23, 2013
I chose this book because I heard on CBC it had something to do with Brooks, Alberta and I work in Brooks part-time. In recent years Brooks has experienced an influx of people from Africa, largely Sudanese and there have been some issues resulting from cultural differences. What I liked about The Mistress of Nothing is the way in which the two women embraced a new culture, even to the point of dressing, eating, and speaking in the way of the Eygptian people. I also enjoyed the strong central character who acted in ways true to herself rather than to the conventions of the day. It was difficult to relate to the employer who seemed to believe she owned those that worked for her, a form of slavery in my opinion. She became a true tyrant over the course of the book. Ultimately the central character was in fact the mistress of something in the end - herself.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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 to Egypt in the early 1860s with her maid, Sally Naldrett. The Lady hires an Egyptian dragoman (translator and guide) named Omar, a twisted love triangle develops and disaster ensues. However, to use Em's words, I decided to read The Mistress of Nothing for its "nutritional content." It far exceeded my expectations. Kate Pullinger loosely roots her book in history but writes in Sally (about whom practically nothing is known)'s voice. As well as conjuring up visceral and exotic images of Egypt, the novel meditates on power, love and culture. The plot is engaging, the characters life-like and the themes so timeless that I often forgot the story was set 150 years ago.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 21, 2013
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. I found the first section very slow and I didn't think I would like. However it went much quicker and I really enjoyed it. the Character of Sally was very strong and i could see that she would succeed. The character of my lady was typical of thr era but I didn't like her. I know she was dying of tuberculous probably and I know she was kind to some people. However I think her treatment of Sally was terrible and that is when Istarted to dislike her'.
Was the epidemic they faced Cholera?
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 13, 2010
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.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 11, 2010
I loved this book and hated for it to end! The language and descriptions of Sally's life in England and in Egypt are beautifully written. I found myself caring so much about the characters and what was to become of them. A very good read.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 14, 2010
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. The central character is irritating beyond belief. I found it absolutely impossible to empathize with her throughout her entire, melodramatic and unrealistic tale. The plot was forced and again, very unbelievable - there were just so many things that didn't add up. The best thing about this book is the cover art, which is the reason I bought the book, and quite beautiful. I guess the old saying rings true here: never judge a book by its cover!
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Need customer service? Click here