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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is more to a 'Cleaner' then cleaning.
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...
Published on 16 April 2007 by Sabrina Stynes

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light and shade
The moral dilemma of whether employing someone to clean your home is right (I think not) made me pick this up.

This book is all about light and shade, in a lot of senses. Obviously with the women's skins, backgrounds and outlooks - Vanessa is white, middles class, terribly concerned with appearing right on, selfish, prickly and aggressively ambitious. Mary is...
Published on 18 Dec. 2007 by NB


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is more to a 'Cleaner' then cleaning., 16 April 2007
By 
Sabrina Stynes (Limerick Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Cleaner (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly enjoyable, 10 Oct. 2007
By 
K. G. Keet (Gateshead, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Cleaner (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Ugandan looks at England, 15 Nov. 2010
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: My Cleaner (Paperback)
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. In the end we feel sorry for Vanessa, especially as we learn more about her background and she is not wholly dislikeable. Both characters are beautifully drawn, and I can't wait to meet them again in the sequel, "My Driver".

Mary is a delightful character, and a particular charm of the book is her attitude to Europeans: she is not in awe or in fear of them; rather she comments, almost in the manner of an anthropologist, on the artificial and stilted way in which they live and on their accumulation of possessions.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Triumph, 26 Sept. 2005
By 
James Shelby Tucker Jr. "Shelby Tucker" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Cleaner (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!). And he likes our President Museveni, and so does Mr Bush, who came to visit. They all like war, and so they all get on.'
This reviewer believes that, with The White Family, The Flood and My Cleaner, Maggie Gee has secured a place in English letters that will survive our time. Another triumph.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it and rejoice, 29 Nov. 2006
This review is from: My Cleaner (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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Triumph, 26 Sept. 2005
By 
James Shelby Tucker Jr. "Shelby Tucker" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: My Cleaner (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!). And he likes our President Museveni, and so does Mr Bush, who came to visit. They all like war, and so they all get on.'
This reviewer believes that, with The White Family, The Flood and My Cleaner, Maggie Gee has secured a place in English letters that will survive our time. Another triumph.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great characters who illustrated many different things, 12 April 2009
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Cleaner (Paperback)
It was a very clever introduction to these characters. I wanted to know more about them but there was, initially, only hints about their past history. So much of the story had already happened before the book began and it took time to find out about it.
Having developed the people further, it then became apparent that the two main characters were being used to display generalisations of their countries - the aspirational but stiff English woman and the innocent but self assured Ugandan woman. Always showing the contrasts by using how they deal with every situation that they were presented with.
Lovely book to read between the lines and have a really good think about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, touching and sharply observed, a joy to read, 31 Aug. 2009
By 
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: My Cleaner (Paperback)
A lively warm, thoughtful and human tale. Outwardly confident, curvaceous, beautiful, Mary Tendo from Uganda returns to London after a decade away, to ride to the rescue of her erstwhile child charge. Poorly, driven Justin has withdrawn from his complicated world into his bedroom and cannot be bossed back to his life by his hectic, flaky, brainy but lacking into common sense mother, Vanessa. He calls for Mary and she answers the cry. Mary is anxious to earn a good deal of money quickly in order to help out her village and family there, also to try to find her long missing son Jamil. Mary is no longer a "Cleaner" and she has exciting plans for her future. She is confident that she can coax Justin back to his old self and enjoys the challenge. Plenty of painfully acute observations on the differing problems facing English people and her countrymen. She proceeds to work with the sorry case of Justin in her own special way, bringing him closer to happiness and solving the mystery of his breakdown. Magnificent Mary establishes herself in her new position and the story of what happens next is absorbing, impressive and life affirming. All these threads are bound together by such delightful writing together with a large dose of truly funny and touching observations - a completely worthwhile read with a love of the human condition at it's very core. I enjoyed Mary's voice especially - I am also fond of reading Alexander McCall Smith who writes in a similar kind way about Africa. Maggie Gee is a seriously heavyweight recorder of the realities of everyday life - still she manages to make her readers feel hopeful and light hearted despite the troubles she describes. "My Cleaner" is followed by "My Driver" in a most satisfactory way so it is a great idea to buy both at once. I have also read "The White Family" by Maggie Gee and enjoyed that tremendously too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking but perhaps a little over-thought, 23 May 2013
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This review is from: My Cleaner (Kindle Edition)
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first Maggie Gee book I have read, 5 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: My Cleaner (Kindle Edition)
The author encapsulates the cultural differences between the two main characters, one a creative writing teacher, the other her former cleaner, a Ugandan who comes to the rescue of the teacher's son who is having a breakdown. Narrative ranges from humour to pathos and the struggle for the upper hand in the London house between the anxiety filled teacher and the down to earth and sensible Ugandan pokes fun at up tight nature of the upper middle class - most enjoyable
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