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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,732 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kate Pullinger Narrator: Rosalyn Lando Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Winner of Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award, this richly rendered American debut captures the life of a lady’s maid on her journey from the confines of Victorian England to the uncharted reaches of Egypt’s Nile Valley, awakening first love, testing loyalties, and discovering freedom has a price.

When Lady Duff Gordon, toast of Victorian London society, departs for the hot, dry climate of Egypt to seek relief from the debilitating effects of her tuberculosis, Sally doesn’t think twice about remaining by her mistress’ side. Sally and Lady Duff Gordon throw themselves into their exotic surroundings, adopting native dress, learning Arabic, and visiting the tombs of ancient pharaohs. Along the way, Sally comes to experience freedoms she, as a servant, has never known before, as well as her first taste of romance.

But freedom is a luxury that a maid can ill afford, and when Sally grasps for more than status entitles her to, she is brutally reminded that she is mistress of nothing. Ultimately, she must choose her master and a way back—or a way to the unknown.

Based on the real lives of Lady Duff Gordon and her maid, The Mistress of Nothing is a lush, sometimes dark portrait of forbidden love, tested loyalties, and finding an unexpected new definition of “home”—a compelling story that will take listeners on a journey they will not soon forget.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Mistress of Nothing sent me between torrents of emotion much like those conflicting forces the Nile has provoked since ancient times: tranquillity, excitement, even shock. Have fun!”

    Hanan Al-Shayhk, author of The Locust and the Bird

  • “It’s Sally’s observations—of men sleeping on the deck of a ship, ‘rolled up like carpets in a souk,’ or the feel of the Arabic language in her mouth, ‘full of air and full of earth at the same time’—that bring this lost world to life.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Romance and tragedy baked in the blistering oven of British morals and prejudice.”

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • “Incorporating actual quotes from the real Lady Duff Gordon’s letters, and endowing Sally with tremendous character, Pullinger successfully imagines an ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The book’s commitment to a historical and pragmatic voice is its true gem. Even with its soft voice, The Mistress of Nothing is a tough story of the unavoidable tragedies and celebrations that three simple, yet extraordinary, lives may yield.”


  • “A highly sensual evocation of place and time, Kate Pullinger’s The Mistress of Nothing is a journey down the Nile that explores the subtle complexities of power, race, class, and love during the Victorian era. The book, narrated by the character of the maid, Sally Naldrett, has one of the most distinctive and memorable voices in recent literature.”

    Governor General’s Jury Citation

  • “The fascination of this deft and unfussily written narrative lies partly in the contrast made between then and now—the merciless progress of tuberculosis, the power of master over servant, the hypocrisies inherent in such a relationship; partly, it stems from the satisfaction in participating in one woman’s determination to survive.”

    Sunday Times (UK)

  • “Pullinger’s narrative flows as smoothly as the Nile…This is an absorbing and gripping tale.”

    Independent (UK)

  • “Pullinger is equally unerring at conveying the subtle cruelties of power relationships and the incremental dawnings of love and affection. Coupled with this is an almost painterly ability to depict an Egypt alternately parched and sumptuous—both literally and metaphorically.”

    Metro (UK)

  • “Pullinger has set herself a challenge that also pays rich dividends. The remarkable life of Lucie Duff Gordon deserves renewed attention, and Pullinger’s novel about this unconventional literary figure’s even more unconventional maid yields some moving narrative which, whether factual or not, rings utterly true.”

    Globe and Mail (Canada)

  • “British actress/voice artist Rosalyn Lander conveys an overall sense of intrigue with her smooth, well-paced narration.”

    Library Journal audio review

  • “Landor’s narration is solid, with good inflection, and she gives Sally an authentic voice while making other characters, both male and female, sound realistic…Landor is a good fit for the novel and for Sally’s character in particular.”


  • “I couldn’t stop reading this wonderful book…Kate Pullinger’s skill is to make you feel like the confidante of her strong and unconventional heroine as she journeys down the Nile into the greatest adventure of her life. Highly recommended.”

    Julia Gregson, author of East of the Sun

  • Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award
  • A BookPage Book of the Day in January 2011
  • A Historical Novels Review Editors’ Choice
  • A 2011 BookPage Best Book
  • Selected for the February 2011 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Marlene | 2/20/2014

    " An interesting, but self-indulgent historical fiction. I learned something about women, Egypt, 19th century mores. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lucy Parat | 1/18/2014

    " Excellent historical detail. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Liz Fenwick | 1/17/2014

    " I had read a review of this book a while ago and thought it sounded intriguing and it was. But it has left me not quite satisfied. I think it may be the intrusive first person voice...I found it a bit tiring. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Susan | 1/2/2014

    " Very interesting story built on imagining the lives of two people in the background of Lady Duff's Gordon more prominent one: her maid, Sally, who accompanied her to Egypt as she battled to survive tb, and Omar, the Egyptian "butler/cook" hired to assist them during their travels/stay. Loved the historical details of the environment and social mores. "

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About the Author
Author Kate Pullinger

Kate Pullinger was born in British Columbia, Canada, and now lives in London. She is the author of several novels and collections of short stories. She collaborated with Jane Campion on the novel of the film The Piano and has written for film, television, and radio. She teaches creative writing and new media at De Montfort University.