The Mistress of Nothing

The Mistress of Nothing

Book - 2009
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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. **Winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction
Publisher: Toronto : McArthur, 2009
ISBN: 9781552787984
Branch Call Number: F PUL
Characteristics: 249 p. ; 22 cm

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sgcf
Mar 26, 2017

This is an intriguing story that focuses on several relationships, made more dramatic by the Egyptian setting in the mid-1800s. I found the first half of this historical novel too detailed with what was probably the author’s attempt at authenticity (I don’t really need a menu for all the meals Omar prepared), but when the second half enters the realm of fiction is where I was really pulled into the story. I found myself caring about the protagonist and wanting to know the motivation / mystery behind the actions unfolding.

t
tlvanapeldoorn
Mar 14, 2017

Story of Lady Duff Gordon, her maid Sally and Sally's affair with an Egyptian married man.
Lady Duff has TB and goes to Egypt due to poor health. Sally has an affair with Omar the dragoman for Mrs Duff. The book provides insights into Egyptian and Muslim life. Story is based on historical and autobiographical events found in the published book by Lady Duff "Letters from Egypt"
Very good read

PoMoLibrary Jun 13, 2015

From Michelle, our 2015 Summer Reading Club member:
Victorian values in Egypt where a beloved servant is cast out for daring to fall in love.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 14, 2014

This back-story behind Letters from Egypt, Lady Duff Gordon's account of her time in 1860's Egypt, is a riveting account of her loyal maid-servant's life—at first utterly tied up with her mistress and then daring to have a life beyond that relationship. Powerful yet subtle writing and believable characters set in a fascinating time and place.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

Winner of the 2009 Governor General’s Literary Award, this novel is set in Egypt in the 1860s. Based very loosely on the life of Lady Duff Gordon, the story revolves around her maid, Sally. Lady Gordon is diagnosed with tuberculosis and her husband sends her to Egypt for the dry climate. The lady and her maid set up house in Luxor and soon become the toast of the town. Sally finds herself drawn into an illicit relationship with one of the other servants and before long finds her life in a state of turmoil. A romantic novel, rich in historical detail that blends struggles with race and class and sexual morals in an exotic setting. The novel prompted a number of discussions on the question of historical accuracy and the right of the novelist to play with the facts to create an engaging story.

mayfairlady Jul 11, 2012

Great story. Main characters are based on real people.

xXxAlexanderxXx Jun 27, 2012

i love the book. very addicting. but i hate how lady duff gordon became after sally had the baby, its very sad after all the things that accured between sally and lady duff gordon as a family. i was happy when she died but im still unhappy at how stupid Sally is realizing Omar did not love her at all.

g
GLNovak
Jun 13, 2012

I have seen this novel compared to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and can only say that the latter brought to the reader a fuller picture of the tenor of the day than does this story, which is based on the experience of Sally Naldrett as lady's maid to Lady Duff Gordon while in Luxor, Egypt. Sally falls in love with and becomes pregnant by Omar the dragoman of their household. She becomes his wife number 2, and manages to keep her pregnancy secret from all around her up until the very birth. Her mistress rejects her and the baby as a disgrace on the family that needs to be shed as soon as possible. The help is always just the help and cannot expect any favours. It would have been interesting to get glimpses into the minds and thought of Lady Duff Gordon and Omar, rather than seeing all the events from only Sally's perspective.

samdog123 Apr 04, 2012

A little cliche, but The Mistress of Nothing is quite something. Dealing with the class distinctions of Victorian England, its a very insightful look at British peers and their relationship and expectations of their servants. Lady Duff Gordon and her maid, Sally, travel to Egypt hoping to cure Lady Duff's tuberculosis. There they find a magical and mystical rhythm to life. Their relationship changes and shifts to include the manservant, Omar. When Sally and Omar become lovers, my Lady is unable to cope with the shifts in the rules.
Would make an excellent book club title.

Nicole21 Apr 03, 2012

This book was a decent read. I think a sad story about a very sick lady whose perception of right and wrong were shaped by her grave sickness. An insightful book about coverting what one can not have and making those who have - thru no fault of their own, pay a huge price. Makes one think that loyalty and love are quite conditional at times.

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