Kate Pullinger’s award winning Mistress of Nothing is set in Egypt in the mid-1800s, and is based loosely on the life of English socialist and author, Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon, but told from the point of view of her lady’s maid, Sally. Sally’s life has been marked by her devotion to service and her dedication to the Duff Gordon family. When Lady Duff Gordon travels to Egypt with the intention treating her tuberculosis, Sally is the only member of the staff to accompany her. Together, Lady Duff Gordon and Sally throw themselves into Egyptian life – sailing the Nile, learning Arabic, adopting local customs. Under these conditions, Sally thrives and passions and freedoms previously unknown to her in life as a servant.
I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and well researched and I can really appreciate the author’s creativity to write a well-known story from a different point of view. Sally comes across as such a vivid, sympathetic character that you really feel like you know her at the end of the book – even though very little is known about her.
Does this book make me want to travel to Egypt? Yes. It is clear and honest about the political and social of Egypt in the mid to late 1800s and, while not every city is painted in a positive light, you can really get a sense of different characters of Alexandria, Cairo, and Luxor. I would recommend it to anyone planning extended travel in Egypt or a trip down the Nile.
You can find this award winning novel in my Amazon shop, or from your local bookstore.