About the book
Lady Duff Gordon is the toast of Victorian London. 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 ménage marshalled by the resourceful Omar, which travels down the Nile to a new life in Luxor. As 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.
Absorbing, intimate, Pullinger's story of a loyal English maidservant's awakening during a journey to an 1860s Egypt in turmoil is also a subtle observation of the play of power and love
The Mistress of Nothing serves up spicy passion and romance and biting social comment in one delicious dish. Kate Pullinger's fascinating novel brings 1860s Cairo and Luxor to life, not as an Orientalist fantasy, but as they might actually have been
The fascination of her deft narrative lies partly in the contrast made between then and now, and partly in the satisfaction of participating in one woman's determination to survive