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The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, set in the Victorian Era, tells the story of Sally, a maid for Lady Duff Gordon, and their travels from England to Luxor, Egypt. They move to Egypt for the lady’s health – she is dying and doctors believe that the dry, hot heat will give her a few more years of life.

Sally and Lady Duff Gordon immediately fall in love with Egypt and even though they become close to one another, they is still a deep divide between lady and maid. Omar, the lady’s Egyptian guide and manservant, catches the eye of Sally and they fall in love.

Unfortunately, Sally becomes pregnant and the two of them get married. However, once the lady finds out, she is offended and completely ignores Sally for the rest of the time they’re in Egypt. The situation gets so bad that Sally moves in with Omar’s family (including his first wife).

This book did nothing for me. The writing style was awful – all the author was doing was telling the reader a story, not showing the reader a story, so it felt very forced and unrealistic. It felt most unrealistic when Sally became delusional as to what her situation will be once she gives birth – that the lady will still love her (and her child) and her relationship with Omar will be perfect. It’s difficult to tell a story like this in the Victorian Era, because women did not have any rights at all or any freedoms, especially when they got pregnant by someone whom they are not married to (and especially by a man who was already married).

Also, I did not like any of the characters, so it was difficult to feel any sympathy towards them or the story. Lady Duff Gordon is a confusing character that one minute is a very nice person, but then the next minute, think she is queen of the world. Sally is also an unrealistic character; it was as though Pullinger forgot her story was set in the Victorian Era and wrote Sally as though she was in the twenty-first century. And Omar, who says he’s completely devoted to his first wife, but then starts an affair with Sally, only to end up with another family.

I was surprised to see that not only was this book nominated for the Governor General’s Award, it also won. It was a disappointing read, with little plot and action, three main characters you didn’t end up caring for, and a writing style that makes it hard to dive in the story.


{x} Pretty bad
{  } Tolerable
{  } All right
{  } Exciting
{  } Enthralling

Book 35 out of 60