22.2.14

MISTRESS OF NOTHING, by Kate Pullinger

Lady Lucie Duff Gordon chronicled Egypt in the 1860's, when a Turkish-appointed ruler ransacked the country and abused its people for his own purposes. At one point, she was "urged"  to abandon her letters home so as not to upset the Bey. Her maid, Sally, a dedicated, no-nonsense woman who - in the unspoken rules of the day for hired help - has stayed unmarried and on call almost around the clock, is the fascinating main character of this story, a tale of loyalty and devotion, love and temptation, punishment and vindication. Sally, who should have adhered to the rules governing intimate helpers such as lady's maids, instead is seduced by the ancient auras of Egypt, and falls in love. The inevitable happens - the one inevitable sure to ruin a maid's life - and Sally's life takes a drastic turn. Written from Sally's viewpoint, and based on the true story of both Lady Duff Gordon and her personal maid, you'll find this hard to put down. It's a 4.5 on my scale.