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My Cleaner

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  286 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
"My cleaner. She does my dirty work. She knows more about me than anyone else in the world. But does she, in fact, like me? Does her presence fill me with shame?"

Ugandan Mary Tendo worked for many years in the white middle-class Henman household in London, cleaning for Vanessa and looking after her only child, Justin. More than ten years after Mary has left, Justin — now t
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 2006 by Telegram Books (first published August 25th 2005)
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9th out of 76 books — 25 voters
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16th out of 56 books — 15 voters

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Community Reviews

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Mar 12, 2013 Christine rated it liked it
I enjoyed this. I especially enjoyed that the writer did not give in to the temptation, if temptation there was, to clear up the myriad misunderstandings and complete lack of real empathy between the characters. They knew each other and yet knew nothing of the other. Vanessa has no insight into herself. There are tremors where a breakthrough seems possible but She is 'strong' and manages to deflect, ignore or distract herself when reality starts to creep in. And Mary, much more grounded as she i ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very easy, fast read, this book lives and breathes for its Ugandan character, Mary Tendo. Having lived and worked in London (and other cities and countries), she starts the novel back in Uganda, settled and in charge of a linen room in a hotel. A letter arrives, offering her a job if she returns to London, where the now-adult son of the woman whose cleaner/nanny she had been, many years earlier, has suffered a mental breakdown. She's asked to return, to help him heal.

Mary Tendo is the momentum
Marguerite Kaye
Another Kindle Daily Deal, and one that really didn't work for me - in fact, I gave up not even half way through. My main gripe, which seems to have been my consistent gripe over a few books recently, is that I found all of the protagonists either tedious or unlikeable. I didn't hate them, but I really couldn't have cared less what happened to them, and to be honest, I found Mary's constant 'I'll tell you about my son, but it's too awful so I won't tell you yet' had the opposite effect of wantin ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Emma rated it liked it
Vanessa's twenty-something son has depression and won't leave his bedroom. Vanessa writes to Justin's former nanny, Mary Tendo, who is back home in Uganda and asks her to come and care for him. This novel tells the story of Mary's second stay in London in the Henman household.
This book is a really enjoyable read, especially Vanessa and Mary's reflections on each other. The truth of the matter that they simply do not understand one another's point of view makes a really good read.
I like the way t
Jan 05, 2015 Douglas rated it really liked it
A complex though light novel. The characters are well drawn and Maggie Gee writes sympathetically about all of them, even though most of them do not come across as particularly nice people to know! And it is certainly about time that a good book has been written about the relationship between someone in England and a cleaner who has travelled from the developing world to work in the UK. I also recommend the sequel, My Driver.
Apr 29, 2014 Carolknitnat rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Brilliant characters especially Mary Tendo. I love the different cultural or personal assumptions each makes about the others and the fact that they all have their own flaws. The descriptions of Ugandan life were vivid and interesting. I shall definitely recommend this one.
Josie Crimp
Jun 08, 2014 Josie Crimp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
I really enjoyed this novel. It combines some interesting, entertaining characters with some biting comments on social niceties. I'd recommend it to pretty much everyone I know who likes reading...
Sep 26, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it
Interesting perspective, believable characters (just ! ) could have been a 3 , but as it is a bit different and I remained intrigued throughout I think a 4 is just about deserved
Sep 03, 2014 Amber rated it liked it
Really enjoyed this book. Not an exciting page turner, but interesting, funny, wonderful characters and well written.
Fazackerly Toast
Nov 27, 2015 Fazackerly Toast rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I thought this was going to be kind of boring and worthy but in fact it was surprisingly readable
Denise Kruse
Jan 24, 2013 Denise Kruse rated it it was amazing
Love this book! I traveled London via Uganda via the irrepressible Mary Tendo, a character I will long remember. The central theme is the use and abuse of Mary as cheap labor; however, Mary has a few failings of her own. She is no innocent victim. She and her employer, Vanessa, have a tense, competitive relationship regarding everything from the men in their lives to their work. Yet there's more! Just when it feels lightweight and wickedly humorous, it weaves into really heavy stuff. All the cha ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Storyheart rated it really liked it
Shelves: humour, africa
Clare Coffey
Apr 22, 2012 Clare Coffey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much. The characters of Mary and Vanessa are well written. I really like Mary and I like Gee's description of how Britain is viewed by non British people when they visit Britain. One of my favourite scenes is towards the end of the book; the description of snow is amazing as is the breakdown of one of the characters.
I read this book as I had read My Driver and I wanted to see where Mary and Vanessa came from. I would recommend this book to friends and colleagues.
Marc Mordey
Jan 16, 2014 Marc Mordey rated it really liked it
An enjoyable book and some familiar characters (shared with My Driver which, on balance, I enjoyed slightly more) to be equally enjoyed and frustrated by (especially the annoyingly dopey son!) I like this writer very much and will read more.
Martin Clark
Sep 06, 2012 Martin Clark rated it liked it
Enjoyable humorous story of miscommunication, prejudice and family life seen from the points of view of neurotic middle-aged, middle-class Vanessa and her outgoing, earthy Ugandan ex-cleaner Mary.

The two woman are completely different and yet we are led to realise they have much in common.

A good read, although I expected more of a climactic ending.
Oct 16, 2014 Sam rated it liked it
Pretty disappointing really.
Sep 06, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it
Remarkable story of a neurotic English woman and an earthy, flawed Ugandan woman who comes back to England after 10 years to care for the English son. Both are prejudiced, judgmental, and clueless when it comes to understanding each other. Funny, smartly written, with a great ending.
Oct 28, 2009 edj rated it really liked it
An unexpected pleasure. The story of an African woman who has been persuaded to come back and take in charge a depressed British young man, this book made me chuckle many times. The characters are shrewdly drawn and all too realistic.
Tracey  Wilde
May 13, 2009 Tracey Wilde rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this. Funny and light hearted but with complicated relationships and really well written rounded characters. Can't wait to read 'My Driver' by the same author
Safron Mitchelson
Oct 13, 2010 Safron Mitchelson rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. Quite funny in parts, it explores the relationship between a middle class single parent and her African "cleaner".
Ailsa Britain
Jul 06, 2014 Ailsa Britain rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this enormously - great characters and a nice combination of amusing and thought provoking.
Sep 06, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing
Funny and thought provoking story about the relationship between people, races, family and countries.
Cathryn Jacob
Mar 30, 2013 Cathryn Jacob rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this book. It gave a lot of new perspectives on things I hadn't thought about before
Nov 29, 2011 Linden rated it really liked it
A Ugandan cleaner "rescues" a British woman and her son. Funny and heartfelt.
Feb 07, 2015 Diheg rated it it was amazing
Two different life stiles brought together
Mar 25, 2014 Nina rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks
Happy End ...more
Aug 11, 2012 Helena rated it it was amazing
Kai rated it really liked it
Jun 12, 2016
Bonnie marked it as to-read
Jun 11, 2016
Maimuna Idris-Bell
Maimuna Idris-Bell rated it liked it
Jun 19, 2016
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Maggie Gee is an English novelist. She was born in Poole, Dorset, then moved to the Midlands and later to Sussex. She was educated at state schools and at Oxford University (MA, B Litt). She later worked in publishing and then had a research post at Wolverhampton Polytechnic where she completed the department's first PhD. She has written eleven novels and a collection of short stories, and was the ...more
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