The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

TitleThe Mistress of Nothing
Author: Kate Pullinger
Genre: fiction (historical fiction)
ISBN: 9781439193860
Length: 250 pages
Year Published: 2009
Source: public library
Rating: 3/5
Reason for Reading: I saw this edition to be published in 2011, so I thought it was new–I hadn’t checked to see if it’d been previously published, which it has–so I read it for my Published in 2011 Resolution
Challenges/Resolutions: none 😦


Lady Duff Gordon is the toast of Victorian London. But when her debilitating tuberculosis requires healthier climate, she and her 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, which 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, excursions to the tombs, Sally too adapts to a new world, affording 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.

My Thoughts: I liked this book, for the most part. The most interesting aspect of it was that it was set in Egypt 😀 And, not only that, it took place in the 1860s (Victorian!!). So I especially liked these things. I think that a lot of writing set in Northern Africa/Middle East with modern settings are pretty much ruined by the political and religious tensions in today’s world. So it was great to get to go back in time before Egypt was “corrupted” from lots of “Western” tourism. Pullinger did an amazing job making Egypt sound so beautiful and exotic!

I was less interested in the story than I was the location and time-period. While I liked the whole struggle that Sally went through, at times it seemed–for no reason that I could discern–that Pullinger was trying to hard to make Sally’s life more interesting. Sometimes Sally seemed to dramatized. While Lady Duff-Gordon’s person could be deciphered from her letters (around which this book was based), not much could be said about the Sally Naldrett of reality. So Pullinger could be very creative with what she imagined her life to be–and I think sometimes she took a bit too much creative license with the character. That being said, I was still pretty interested in her story. I mean, I felt for her, being treated how I feel was very wrongly. And having to put up with crap from her former employer and her husband at the same time, being pretty much alone, that would be rough. But, again, I especially loved seeing more of Egypt. I don’t think I’ve been to Egypt in book since I was in 6th grade (FYI, that was 11 years ago). So I’m glad I got to be there 🙂

My Thoughts on the Cover: I like the cover of the edition I read much more than the previous cover. I’m not sure why. Both covers are equally relevant to the story and are beautiful. But, I just like mine better 🙂 I guess the previous cover seems, to me, like people might not realize that’s the Nile. Or the boats–it’s sort of hard to tell where they come from. But the camels and clothing on the bottom of my cover tell you–you’re in Egypt 😀



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