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The Mistress of Nothing: A Novel
     

The Mistress of Nothing: A Novel

3.6 22
by Kate Pullinger
 

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The American debut of an award-winning novel about a lady’s maid’s awakening as she journeys from the confines of Victorian England to the uncharted far reaches of Egypt’s Nile Valley

When Lady Duff Gordon, paragon of London society, departs for the hot, dry climate of Egypt to seek relief from her debilitating tuberculosis, her

Overview

The American debut of an award-winning novel about a lady’s maid’s awakening as she journeys from the confines of Victorian England to the uncharted far reaches of Egypt’s Nile Valley

When Lady Duff Gordon, paragon of London society, departs for the hot, dry climate of Egypt to seek relief from her debilitating tuberculosis, her lady’s maid, Sally, doesn’t hesitate to leave the only world she has known in order to remain at her mistress’s side. As Sally gets farther and farther from home, she experiences freedoms she has never known—forgoing corsets and wearing native dress, learning Arabic, and having her first taste of romance.

But freedom is a luxury that a lady’s maid can ill afford, and when Sally’s newfound passion for life causes her to forget what she is entitled to, she is brutally reminded she is mistress of nothing. Ultimately she must choose her master and a way back home—or a way to an unknown future.

Based on the real lives of Lady Duff Gordon and her maid, The Mistress of Nothing is a lush, erotic, and compelling story about the power of race, class, and love

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Canadian novelist Pullinger (www.katepullinger.com) makes her American debut with this historical novel based on the real-life Egyptian adventures of an ill Lady Lucie Duff Gordon and her devoted maid, Sally Naldrett. Set in the 1860s, it has all the elements of a Victorian romance—an exotic locale, a titled European woman, the reviving of a first love—and the descriptions of the political milieu add to its appeal, but it lacks the fleshing out of scenery and characters typical of this genre. British actress/voice artist Rosalyn Lander conveys an overall sense of intrigue with her smooth, well-paced narration. Of interest to Pullinger's fans. [The Touchstone: S. & S. hc won Canada's Governor General's Award and was recommended for "those interested in Egypt or the real-life Lucie Duff Gordon," LJ 10/15/10; the Touchstone pb will be released in September.—Ed.]—Denise Garofalo, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439195062
Publisher:
Touchstone
Publication date:
01/04/2011
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
330,203
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Kate Pullinger is the author of several novels and collections of short stories and collaborated with Jane Campion on the novelization of the film The Piano. The Mistress of Nothing, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, was her American debut. She lives in London. Visit her website at KatePullinger.com.

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The Mistress of Nothing 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Schubidoo More than 1 year ago
I thought, flipping through this book, that it would not hold my attention. I was wrong. I was riveted. It had a most unusual plot, and was not formulaic, like so many novels are. I loved reading about Egypt, through the vision of a late Victorian Englishwoman/lady's maid. I loved the multi-layers and believability of the protagonists. I could barely put the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found it hard to get into and could not relate to it. Just didn't love it.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
At first I was a little taken aback that this book was not written in the voice of Lady Duff Gordon, on whose letters this novel was based. I thought I might prefer the voice of the woman whose entrance into a room made the party brighter, suddenly more fashionable, very 'au courant.' Lady Duff Gordon suffered from a malady of the lungs, which required a warm, dry climate rather than that of England at the turn of the 20th century. She left her family and moved to Egypt with her lady's maid and spent the bulk of her time in Luxor, home of the tombs of the pharaohs and the Sphinx. She enjoyed a wide circle of friends among the local intelligentsia. Little was recorded of her lady's maid, Sally Naldrett, but this is a book told in her voice-how first Lady Gordon shed her English clothing and mannerisms, and then Sally did. How they both became acclimatized to life in Egypt, learned Arabic, and how Sally felt she had shed her old, lonely maid's life for a life both warm and passionate. How she outgrew her position of servility alone, and became a woman on her own terms. The story is lightly and quickly told, but develops an urgency in its later pages that belies the sunny outlook of its beginning. In writing this novel, Kate Pullinger drew on biography of Gordon written by Katherine Frank, called Lucie Duff Gordon: A Passage to Egypt, published in 1995. It was republished in 2007 by Tauris Parke Paperbacks and is said to show the sparkling nature of the vivacious Lady Gordon. A darker side of that character is hinted at in this novel, leaving lingering questions about a widely admired woman whose family shunned her, and who shunned others, brutally and unforgivably, in return. One is eager to turn to the original materials to get to the heart of the matter. One feels sure there is still a novel in the material there, this time from the view of Lady Duff Gordon (1821-1869), whom even the Prince and Princess of Wales came to visit in Luxor when she was too ill to travel. This is a small, pocket-sized book which can transport you to places far off and long ago, and for that, it is amply worth the time and expense of acquiring it. Later, when I was looking through Kate Pullinger's website, I came across a blogpost speaking of Ellen, Sally Naldrett's sister, who makes an appearance in the book. It gives one tingles to think that rich lives went unrecorded and unremembered until now.
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treegenus More than 1 year ago
Well written and interesting read. It would make a good film or TV special and would be visually beautiful.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one of those books that it is hard to put down.
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Donna-Callea More than 1 year ago
Based on a true story, set in the 1860s, this novel is a very different kind of historical fiction. The heroine, Sally, is a very proper English maid who serves Lady Lucie Duff Gordon, an acclaimed writer and personality who travels with Sally to Egypt in the hope that the hot, dry climate will improve her health. Sally is the perfect servant and companion to her lady, and is treated, at times, almost like an equal. But when Sally falls in love with Omar, the handsome Egyptian dragoman who also serves Lady Duff Gordon, everything changes. This is a beautifully written, heart wrenching story that rings true.
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