Set in mid 19th century Egypt, Kate Pullinger's American debut chronicles Sally Naldrett's transformation from life as a strait-laced English maid to an independent woman perceived as having "gone native." The Mistress of Nothing raises questions of loyalty to social hierarchies in the 1860s; to Sally's mistress, Lady Duff Gordon (a historical personage known for her belles lettres); and to her Lady's Egyptian dragoman, Mr. Omar Abu Halaweh.
When Lady Duff Gordon, suffering from tuberculosis, is advised to travel to a hot, dry climate for the sake of her health, the family's limited finances, her husband's work and her children's schooling prevent them from accompanying her. Her excursion to Egypt is fraught with tension and the awareness that she is not expected to return to England for longer than a visit. Far from home, it is understandable that Sally, the only...
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