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I was engaged by this book despite the lack of engaging characters. It made ideal fodder for discussion at the informal book-club I take part in. Themes of snobbery, whether academic, class or racial, thread through the whole book. Whilst the narrative runs from Uganda to Britain and from city to village, it feels quite claustrophobic much of the time - little lives with big impacts on other people. The premise of the book is that the academic writer, Vanessa, calls on her former cleaner, Mary, when her grown-up son has a breakdown, regresses in behaviour and takes to his bed. Mary now lives in Uganda, which she left to study in Britain - but her plans came unstuck and she ended up cleaning for a living to support her Libyan husband and her young son. Her son and Vanessa's were of similar age, and Mary had looked after the boy while Vanessa worked, developing a close, motherly relationship which we are led to believe was probably closer than Vanessa's own relationship with her son.
Mary wants to earn money so she can go back to her home village in Uganda with her head held high as a success; Vanessa couldn't wait to leave her village, where her family were very poor, and has never felt a desire to visit. Mary's presence is a catalyst for (eventually) changing attitudes and relations. Vanessa's writing career is in decline; Mary is inspired to become a writer. See what I mean by being just a little over-thought?!
Despite things being perhaps a little too artfully plotted out, it is surprisingly readable and indeed has quite a lot of humour - sometimes not of the comfortable kind. Worth reading.
Wonderful descriptions of Uganda and then seeing London through the eyes of a very large character made this a very easy book to love. I would have given it 4.5 stars but that wasn't possible and what prevented me from 5 stars was the slightly predictable ending. However it was very much a feel-good book so she can be forgiven.
An unexpected look at the mistress/servant relationship, with an extra perspective coming from Justin, Vanessa' s son. An interesting read, but somewhat pedantic at times. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading another from this author.
I read this some weeks ago but I remember it with affection, some books don't stay in my head at all. The central character made me smile and I loved the social interaction as portrayed between the races and classes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters were engaging and well written. The story moved forward at a good pace. I hadn't read any of Maggie Gee's previous books but will certainly be looking out for them in the future.