The Mistress of Nothing

Kindle Highlights from and ‘The Mistress of Nothing’

26 May 2012 | Comments (0)

Today I came across the Kindle highlights from ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ via the US Amazon site.  I’d never noticed this before.  The highlights are bits that readers have bookmarked in the text and shared with other Kindle readers.  My plan is to write a version of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ that consists of these highlights and nothing else.

And, in fact, Omar was master of his own household, however infrequently he was able to attend to it, while I was mistress of nothing. 
Highlighted by 11 Kindle users

I was not a real person to her, not a true soul with all the potential for grace and failure that implies. 
Highlighted by 7 Kindle users

“I’m not surprised, Sally Naldrett, to find you capable of this.” At the time I heard one meaning. Now I hear another. 
Highlighted by 7 Kindle users

But while all of this is true, it is a mistake to think that the people are so preoccupied with the Nile and its inundation of the land—an inundation that destroys while at the same time rebirthing—that they will continue to labor under the sun, oblivious to the passing of the centuries. Instead, they lie in wait, like a scorpion on a rock, like a crocodile among the reeds, and from time to time they rise up and they bite. 
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

I hated her beautifully: my hatred was polished and hard and shiny and, truth be told, at times it sustained me. 
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

Sometimes now I think that perhaps the disease was more responsible than my Lady herself for what she did to me. But the fact is that I had too much at stake to be quite that forgiving. 
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

I loved Omar with an unexpected passion that opened the world, but I loved Abdullah in a way that was larger, fiercer, more complete than the world itself could ever be. 
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

I screamed the night Abdullah was born; I made more noise that one night than I had during the whole of the rest of my life put together. But after that, I fell into silence. And that silence deepened and darkened and grew heavier and thicker, until my days were as dark and silent as my nights. 
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

It did not occur to me that he might see marriage to me as useful in any way, as part of his plans for his future, an addition to his lengthy list of skills and accomplishments in life. 
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

Why is the world full of people who see fit to dispense with others as soon as it suits them? But I stop myself from having these thoughts, from thinking these things, and I get on with the task at hand. I’m very good at getting on with the task at hand: it’s what suits me. 
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

Sally Naldrett’s sister

28 March 2011 | Comments (2)

When I opened my email inbox this weekend, I found an email from a descendent of Sally Naldrett, the heroine of my novel, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’.  If you’ve read the novel, this will give you a shock - or indeed, a little shiver.  The mail was from a woman whose father traces his own family back to Ellen Naldrett, Sally’s sister.  He was born in Alexandria, though they are, I think, an English family, and returned to the UK sometime during the twentieth century. 

Ellen makes a few appearances in ‘The Mistress of Nothing’; she lives in Alexandria where she works as lady’s maid to Janet Ross, Lucie Duff Gordon’s daughter.  Ellen was one of the people who seems not to have spotted the fact that Sally was pregnant, though they saw each other just days before Sally gave birth on the Nile.  As well as that, at one point in my novel Ellen announces to Sally that she has plans to get married, though she has no idea who she’ll marry - not for her the lifelong role of spinster lady’s maid.  This announcement, this scene, was entirely fictional - I was looking for a way to demonstrate the extraordinary fact that lady’s maid were expected to not marry.  But it looks as though it turned out to be true, and that Ellen went on to have a family.  But the idea that both Naldrett girls might have stayed on in Egypt did not occur to me; perhaps Ellen was able to be more of a help to Sally after all.  Perhaps Ellen helped raise Sally’s child…

Truly extraordinary.  And it’s got me thinking… It would be great fun to research what happened to Ellen Naldrett.  And it would be so interesting to look into whether or not Omar really did go on to work for the Prince of Wales…

First Enhanced Ebook in Partnership with CBC

17 December 2010 | Comments (0)

DECEMBER 15, 2010

McArthur & Company and CBC BOOKS are delighted to announce today the release of the first of what we hope will be many enhanced ebooks in partnership with publishers in Canada, Kate Pullinger’s GG award-winning THE MISTRESS OF NOTHING.

THE MISTRESS OF NOTHING won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 2009. CBC signed the book in early 2010 to feature as a reading.

This enhanced ebook has many exclusive features:
• abridged audio in 25 parts, read by actress Barbara Barnes
• a slide show featuring photographs, prints and paintings from the era (1860s Egypt), as well as the house where Lady Duff Gordon and her maid Sally Naldrett stayed
• further reading suggestions
• a book club reading guide
• six exclusive videos of the author Kate Pullinger discussing the writing and researching of the book and reading the final chapter aloud.

CBC Books offers a uniquely Canadian perspective on the literary world, with profiles of Canadian books and authors. The online portal also features podcasts of CBC Radio One’s literary programs The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers and Writers & Company with Eleanor Wachtel, as well as the serialized book readings of contemporary Canadian fiction.
About CBC/Radio-Canada
CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada’s national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. The Corporation is a leader in reaching Canadians on new platforms and delivers a comprehensive range of radio, television, Internet, and satellite-based services. Deeply rooted in the regions, CBC/Radio-Canada is the only domestic broadcaster to offer diverse regional and cultural perspectives in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages.

McArthur & Company, founded in 1998, is a Canadian owned and operated book publishing company based in Toronto. McArthur & Co publishes the finest in Canadian and international fiction and non-fiction for adults and children across Canada and around the world. Our award-winning Canadian authors include Kate Pullinger, Nancy Huston, Barry Callaghan, Marc Tetro and John Brady. Our Canadian authors in translation include Nadine Bismuth, Jean Barbe, and Rafaële Germain. Our drama list includes Kent Stetson, and our poetry list features Patrick Watson, Al Purdy, Dennis Lee and Margaret Atwood. Our bestselling international authors include Bryce Courtenay, Marc Levy, Denise Mina, Mark Billingham and Colleen McCullough.

The print and ebook versions of THE MISTRESS OF NOTHING are already available from McArthur & Company wherever fine books and ebooks are sold;  this enhanced and abridged ebook in partnership with CBC will be available wherever enhanced ebooks are sold.


Kim McArthur, President & Publisher, McArthur & Company
(416) 408-4007 ext 23

Devon Pool, Publicity and Marketing Director, McArthur & Company
(416) 408-4007 ext 25

Jess Bennett, Veritas Communications, for CBC
(416) 955-4584

S&S edition of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’

14 December 2010 | Comments (0)

Yesterday I was very excited to receive my first copy of the hardcover edition of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’, which Touchstone, Simon & Schuster US, are publishing next month.  It’s a very handsome edition.  It’s also been ages since I’ve had a book published in hard cover so the snob/bibliophile inside me is secretly thrilled.

However, yesterday I also received a lovely email that set off an interesting chain of discoveries.  The mail was from Rosalyn Landor, an actor who had recently finished recording an audiobook version of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’; the mail was very sweet and complimentary, a treat to read first thing on a Monday morning.  Despite the fact that the name of the actor was unfamiliar, I assumed that she was referring to the recent CBC audio recording of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ which is currently being broadcast on Sirius radio in Canada.  So I replied to her, and forwarded the mail to my publishers in Toronto, as well as the CBC producer who had bought the book for radio. 

Everyone was a bit baffled.  No Rosalyn Landor had been involved in the CBC recording.  What did this mean?  A bit of googling (of course) turned up the answer - an unabridged audio edition of the novel, created by Blackstone Audio in the US, was for sale via Amazon.  A few enquiries later, it was determined that S&S had licensed the audio rights; they will publish the hardcover, the ebook, and the audio book simultaneously.  Their audio edition is available as mp3, on CDs, as well as, quaintly, cassette tapes (6 tapes in total, ‘packaged in a sturdy vinyl case’). 

So, of course, this is great.  McArthur & Co in Canada are about to launch our own audio version of the book, in collaboration with the CBC; unlike the Blackstone Audio edition, this will be an enhanced abrdiged audio edition, enabling the reader to move seamlessly between audio recording and reading the text on screen, accompanied by an image slideshow and a series of video interviews.  It will be one of the first Canadian-made enhanced editions available. 

However, the googling also unearthed a problem, one that is characteristic of digitisation;  the Blackstone audio edition is for sale in territories where they don’t own the rights, including Canada and the UK.  There is nothing sinister about this;  Blackstone’s eretail sales dept probably enters all English language markets automatically.  At the end of the day, it will turn out to be a slip of the metadata, the territorial licensing terms in the original contract missed out along the way.  But for my Canadian publishers, about to launch their own audio edition, in their own territory, this was a serious mistake, and one that needs to be corrected swiftly. 

There’s no moral to this story.  But for me it serves as a demonstration of the complexities of publishing in the digital age.  Territorial rights are one of the many complicating factors in our online world.  Digitisation brings vastly improved access to multiple versions of a single book.  But publishing in 2010 is about managing, and to a certain extent policing, metadata.  As Dominique Raccah of Source Books points out so clearly, digitisation is not simplifying publishing processes but adding a series of new steps in to an already complex publishing chain.

IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist

15 November 2010 | Comments (1)

‘The Mistress of Nothing’ has been nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award!

This is great news for me, and for the book.  It is, however, the world’s longest longlist, 162 titles in total, and it is packed full of wonderful books.  So, making it onto the shortlist is a longshot - but still, we live in hope!

Two Bookshops, Two Cities

2 November 2010 | Comments (0)

I’m just back from my enormous book tour of Canada.  I had a great time and covered many miles, met many readers, and went to many parties.  Two of my favourite events during the trip were my visit to Hager Books in Kerrisdale, Vancouver, and my visit to Flying Dragon books in Toronto.  This photo is of me with Andrea who runs Hager Books with her stepdaughter.  Hager Books is a tiny shop - seriously tiny - but they are capable of moving huge quantities of books via their highly personal and personable bookselling abilities - as of week before last they had sold 305 copies of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ which, as far as I’m concerned, is a phenomenal amount of books.

Flying Dragon in Toronto takes a similar approach - handselling, the booksellers Cathy and Nina and their team making personal recommendations.  Flying Dragon is a children’s bookshop, but they also sell a small selection of books for grown-ups, targeting the parents who come into the shop with their kids. 

Both shops are hugely atmospheric and very comfortable; both reminded me what a great place a seriously good, friendly, neighbourhood bookshop can be.  But, perhaps most importantly, both shops demonstrate what a great job knowledgable and dedicated booksellers can do when it comes to shifting vast quantities of stock. 

Here’s hoping these bookstores continue to thrive for many years to come.

A Love in Luxor - German edition of The Mistress of Nothing

8 October 2010 | Comments (0)

Bloomsbury Berlin have just brought out their translation of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’, ‘Eine Liebe in Luxor’, and it is a very handsome book indeed.

The Germans have changed the title of the novel.  I wasn’t consulted on this, but I don’t have a problem with it, as I’m sure they needed to get a title that they felt worked well in German.  I really struggled to find the right title for this book, in English, let alone other languages.  I went through a number of different titles, from ‘The Beautiful House’ (which is what the ancient Egyptians called the building where they mummified bodies) to ‘The Nile at Night’.  ‘The Beautiful House’ was too interiors magazine sounding, while ‘The Nile at Night’ was too bland.  A writer friend of mine had stated categorically at lunch one day that the title had to make it clear to the reader that the book is set in Egypt, because books about Egypt are so popular.  So I tortured myself trying to figure that one out over the years, though of course ‘Death on the Nile’ was already taken and any variation on that - ‘Love on the Nile’, ‘Sally and Lucie on the Nile’ - just sounded silly. 

It wasn’t until I wrote the line in the novel that includes the phrase ‘while I am the mistress of nothing’ - very late on in the process - that the title finally arrived.  I’m fond of the title, though it gives me a little pang every time I think about how it doesn’t include any words that remind the reader of Egypt. 

I put the title into a translation service online just now, and it came out as ‘A Dear in Luxor’.  Maybe I should write a sequel to the novel, ‘A Deer in Luxor’, about a pet deer that Sally keeps in her old age.  I put the title through the service once again, and it came out as ‘A Love in Luxor’, which I’m sure is closer to what Bloomsbury Berlin intended.  Perhaps the word ‘mistress’ does not have the dual meaning in German that it does in English.

Boulder Pavement interview - September 2010

16 September 2010 | Comments (0)

In February 2010 I attended a digital media conference, Interventions, at the Banff Centre in the Rockies.  I had a fabulous week in Banff, although it was bizarrely, rather alarmingly warm - thick cardigan and scarf warm, no snow on the ground.  Although I grew up near Banff and have been there many times, I had never been to the Banff Centre and now I am twiddling my thumbs waiting for an opportunity to go back.

The Literary Arts team, lead by Steven Ross Smith, publish Boulder Pavement, an elegantly designed digital magazine of arts and ideas.  During the week Steven and I took some time out to record an audio interview for the magazine, and it is included in Issue 2.  It’s just over thirty minutes long.

Historical Fiction vs Historians Again!

4 June 2010 | Comments (3)

It sounds like heavy-weight historian Antony Beevor and right-wing historian Niall Ferguson have been bigging it up at the Hay Festival, condemning fiction that deals with history to the dustbin yet again.  According to reports, Niall Ferguson says he never reads historical fiction because it ‘contaminates historical understanding’; Beevor says he thinks that historical novelists ought to mark in bold type ‘the bits they made up’. 

Nice to see two such hardy fellows claiming their unparalleled access to the truth. 

The same day I read about this, I also happened to read an essay by Arthur Schlesinger Jr, ‘History and National Stupidity’.  You can read the beginning of this 2006 essay online at the New York Review of Books, though I came across it in a book of collected NYBR essays called ‘The Consequences to Come:  American Power After Bush’. 

Schlesinger’s essay is remarkable - short, pithy, and very moving.  In it he discusses his own book about American President Jackson, ‘The Age of Jackson’, which Schlesinger wrote in the 1950s, in relation to a new book about Jackson and the causes of the Civil War by Sean Wilentz.  Schlesinger pithily and mercilessly lays bare the problems with his own book which, as he explains, was a product of a certain time and place, as all books - history and fiction - inevitably are.  Schlesinger says ‘I was hopelessly absorbed in the dilemmas of democratic capitalism made vivid for my generation by FDR and the New Deal, and I underplayed and ignored other aspects of the Age of Jackson.  The predicament of slaves, or the red man and the “trail of tears”...the restricted opportunities for women of the period… were shamefully out of my mind.’ 

Schlesinger begins this essay with the following statement:  ‘History is not self-executing.  You do not put a coin in the slot and have history come out.  For the past is a chaos of events and personalities into which we cannot penetrate.  It is beyond retrieval and it is beyond reconstruction.  All historians know this in their souls.’

This is why history is fascinating.  This is why each generation reconstructs the past anew.  This is why there is room for yet another book about D-Day, and yet another book about power and money.  This is why my attempt to write the ‘true’ story of Sally Naldrett, a humble maid, made homeless and jobless by the employer to whom she had devoted her life, is a worthy topic for fiction.  And, as anyone who stoops so low to actually read fiction that deals with historical subjects knows, this is why fiction can sometimes be the only way to tell the truth. 

The Mistress of Nothing - American advanced reader’s copies

27 May 2010 | Comments (0)

Today I received 8 copies of Touchstone Fireside/ Simon & Schuster’s Advance Reader’s Edition of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ in the post.  Here’s a photo of them on my desk.

To date the publication process of this American edition of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ has been so interesting.  The attention to detail over the manuscript itself was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  The ms went through two stages of copy-editing, the first for typesetting and Americanisation of the text, the second for proofing, and that in itself was an eye-opener.  And these Advance Reader’s Editions (in the UK these are called ‘bound proofs’) are lovely - it’s a very very nice bound paperback edition of the book, ‘not for resale’, full colour front and back covers - the only thing to distinguish it from a rather nice trade paperback edition is the slightly cheaper paper.  I can’t wait to see the actual hardcover edition!!!  It is going to be a thing of beauty! 

Pah to audio enhanced mutlimedia ebooks!  What was I thinking?  These Advance Reader’s Editions smell lovely!

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