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My Cleaner

by Maggie Gee

Vanessa Henman, a bored academic, invites her former cleaner, Mary Tendo, to return from Uganda to London to look after her severely depressed son. Class, race and culture conflicts ensue. This may sound fairly bleak, but turns out to be both surprising and funny. You quickly warm to the colourful Mary, as do all the characters she meets, and you become eagerly involved in her plotting.

Extract

The wind in October is horribly cold. It is thin and sharp and it makes me lonely. It screams and howls as the Henman does. I do not want to hear what it says. I miss the friends that I have at home. Even if they gossip, at least they know me. I miss the strong chai that we drink together, Beverley from the flat above and Ruth next door with her new small dreads like stubby, soft little heads of puppies. I miss the faces I saw every day, old Mr Lugira with the weighing machine his son brought back from America, standing smiling by the side of the road, and often he would weigh me for free.

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