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My Cleaner Paperback – 18 May 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Telegram Books (18 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846590086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846590085
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 374,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Beautifully observed, intelligent and moving ... a carefully wrapped surprise that gets better and better with the unravelling. Scotsman

Darkly comic Guardian

An intelligent and satisfying read. --Sunday Times

Much of the joy of reading Maggie Gee derives from her ability to take control of a complex and multi-layered narrative and render it as accessible and satisfying as a television soap. Her prose is rich and gossipy; it mixes the highbrow with the vernacular, and is, at times, shockingly cynical. Observer

Must Read: we get the trademark Gee humour and also a thoughtful, moving read. New Nation

A smart satire on a subject central to most women s lives ... we either keep our houses clean, or pay someone else to do it. It s a queasy thought ... and [one] you will never brush casually aside again after reading My Cleaner. --Daily Telegraph

Gee satirises the liberal conscience of the chattering classes with uncomfortable perception in this hugely enjoyable novel ... her portrayal of Britain s new underclass of immigrant workers is presented with her trademark stinging clarity. Metro

My Cleaner is another successful attempt on Gee s part to inhabit the mind of someone who is quite unlike her: in this case, a black Ugandan ... Gee gives all her characters, white and black, male and female, the dignity of knowing that they live according to the choices they have made. New Statesman

It s amazing how many details, characters, stories within stories, Maggie Gee s unquenchable exuberance crams into this comparatively short book. --The Spectator

About the Author

Maggie Gee has published many novels to great acclaim, including The White Family, shortlisted for the Orange and IMPAC prizes, My Driver and The Flood, longlisted for the Orange Prize, and a memoir, My Animal Life. She was the first female Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and is now one of its Vice-Presidents. Maggie was awarded an OBE for Services to Literature in 2012. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sabrina Stynes on 16 April 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book following a review I read in the 'Sunday Times'. Mary a Ugandan lady returns to her former employer's house Vanessa, to help her son Justin through a 'depression'. Prior to her return Mary was previously employed as a Cleaner, but now her role is somewhat different.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a true reflection of the ups and downs life can bring. The prejudices and snobbery that effects our judgements.Its not a dark read, funny in places and the author paints vivid pictures of each character which brings them to life. It highlights how simple values and strong beliefs hold true in the end.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. G. Keet on 10 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was funny, moving, convincing and wholly engaging.
I did feel that there was a slight imbalance between the two main characters - Mary was so warm, loving, insightful and humourous, she could not fail to charm. Vanessa, in contrast, though I felt sympathetic to her, was completely unlikable. I could not pinpoint one good quality in her character throughout the book. This, I felt, was rather an unfair depiction of the middle class Westerner. Perhaps Gee was being a little too self-critical.
Nevertheless, I would higly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Gee's work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The main characters in this beautifully written book:

Vanessa Henman is a writer, snobbish, selfish, insecure, self-deluding, a cold single mother, though her ex-husband Trevor looks in frequently to fix things in the house and to keep in touch with Justin, their son.

Mary Tendo is a Ugandan. Educated at Makerere College, she had been sent by her government to do an MA in London, but then the government grant stopped; Mary could not afford to continue with her MA and took a job with Vanessa, initially as a cleaner twice a week, but soon looking after Justin, who became very fond of her as she of him. He was three when she arrived and eleven when, having saved enough money, she returned to Kampala. There she has found a decent job as the Linen Store Keeper in one of the top hotels, and is saving money to be able to retire to her native village. She is confident and satisfied with her life (though she has one great grief whenever she thinks of her much loved son Jamil whom her Libyan ex-husband took with him to Tripoli).

Then she receives a letter from Vanessa: Justin, now 21, "is very ill. He never gets up". He was still so fond of Mary; could she possibly come back to look after him? The money would be good. So Mary returns. She secured twice the wages that she had been offered: an early sign both of her confidence and of the new relationship between her and her employer. Justin is indeed mentally very sick, and Vanessa can do nothing with him; but he responds to Mary, which further tilts the balance of power in the household towards her. There is growing tension between the two women, and the reader is on tenterhooks, especially in the last few pages, about how it will all work out. Mary is as robust as Vanessa is brittle.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By James Shelby Tucker Jr. on 26 Sept. 2005
Format: Paperback
I thought that I had touched the sky with Maggie Gee's previous novel, The Flood, but My Cleaner (perfect title) is even better, richly funny and moving. Vanessa Henman is a middle class writer who for the past 25 years has taught creative writing (instead of writing), who lives 'in that big empty house, so much too big for only two people' and who has too many books that she doesn't read or need, too much of everything. She has raised her handsome, intelligent son Justin as a single-parent mother, but, blind to her failings as a mother, blames her ex-husband for what has happened to Justin. Justin has abandoned his job, mopes about the house all day and hates everyone except Mary, an Ugandan village girl who was Vanessa's cleaner when he was a boy. Mary now is a Makerere graduate living in Kampala, but somehow she has escaped the corrosive effects of education and urban life. Her preoccupations are the people she loves, her son who has been taken from her and her kabito (boyfriend). She believes in God and loves to sing and dance. She is grateful to be who she is. She needs money and, when Vanessa asks her to return to London to look after Justin, she accepts.
Maggie Gee confronts in this novel (one is tempted to say parable) life as so many of us in Europe and America now experience it: a sterilized life separated from the soil that nourishes us, of neuroses and trivial preoccupations, godless and lonely. She juxtaposes Vanessa and Mary (choosing an African, one suspects, because an English rustic would be a less convincing foil), leads us through a fascinating story happy and painful by turn, and makes her case with convincing authenticity of detail, grace and wit. 'It is strange how Mr Blair is always smiling (he seems happier than anyone else in Britain!).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Mugwump on 29 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
This novel has everything - a good story told in excellent writing, with irony, tenderness, humour, compassion, and even some wonderful descriptions. It left me with so much to think about. I especially enjoyed the self-torturing consciousness of Vanessa, novelist and creative writing tutor, the single mother who bought expensive boots with her advance. I shall now buy Maggie Gee's other books.
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