My Driver – Maggie Gee

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My Driver follows Vanessa Henman, an English author, who flies out to Uganda for an African Writer’s conference. Whilst there she seeks out Mary Tendo, a Ugandan who used to clean her London home. Mary now has a good job, but her son has gone missing and in the first of a string of coincidences Mary has recruited Vanessa’s ex-husband Trevor to build a well for her village.

This is my first Maggie Gee novel and I think I may have been disadvantaged by not reading My Cleaner first, as all the other reviews I’ve seen emphasise the role reversal which takes place from one novel to the next (in My Cleaner Vanessa is the dominant one, in her home country). I don’t think I missed out on understanding anything in the book, but think the symbolic importance of this sequel is one of its main positives.

The writing was rich and beautiful, the plot holding my attention and flowing smoothly. Unfortunately much of the novel seemed to rely on satire and gentle humor, which I do not enjoy.

It’s still slightly strange for small land-based mammals to be shot through the air, thirty thousand feet up, with a skin of metal and two fallible engines between them and death, at five hundred miles per hour, which is seven times faster than they drive on motorways. But they have to look calm, for every one’s sake; you can’t have constant hysteria at airports.

All the usual African themes are here, including poverty and war, but life in Kampala is particularly well described. Perhaps because I have been to this city I found these sections especially vivid.

There were powerful events in this novel, but they were written in such a light way that their impact was reduced. I ended the book feeling as though I’d been taken on a pleasant journey, but nothing outstanding or unique had occurred and so I don’t think the experience will be very memorable. 

Recommended to anyone you enjoys gentle, satirical humor. 

Gee’s pen flows with knowing satiric glee… Lizzy’s Literary Life

Maggie Gee’s writing is superb and nearly flawless. Wing’s World Web

Have you read any of Maggie Gee’s books?


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14 Comments

  1. Verity says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this one as I enjoyed My Cleaner.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, From the reviews I’ve seen I think you will enjoy this if you enjoyed My Cleaner. I hope you manage to find a copy soon.

      1. Verity says:

        It turns out that I hadn’t read My Cleaner, I was confusing it with another Maggie Gee – but I got My cleaner yesterday and loved it. Now absolutely desperate to read My Driver, so dropping hints left riught and centre about early birthday presents…

      2. Verity says:

        Woopeedoo, got copy at lunchtime from the library :)

        1. Jackie says:

          Verity, I’m pleased that you enjoyed it. I hope you like My Driver too.

  2. NickyB says:

    I’ve read several Maggie Gee novels and enjoy her style very much, although I’ve read neither My Cleaner nor My Driver. The White Family is possibly my favourite as her description of the characters is stunning. Thanks for the post..

    1. Jackie says:

      Nicky, I’ve heard ofther people say that The White Family is her best book. I have a copy here and will read it at some point in the future.

  3. Beth F says:

    I haven’t read Gee either but I might give her try. I’m fine with satire and gentle humor.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I have a feeling that you’ll enjoy her books.

  4. Jenny says:

    I’ve heard of My Cleaner, and I got the impression it was the sort of book that makes me absolutely cringe: the kind that tries to work out middle-class liberal angst by including stereotypical characters from less privileged backgrounds. Having read your review, though, I think I’ve probably been quite unfair to Maggie Gee! I’m adding this one and My Cleaner to my list. :)

    1. NickyB says:

      She talks about the problem of middle class angst (after 3’00) in the interview on
      http://www.theinterviewonline.co.uk/library/books/maggie-gee-interview.aspx

      She did go on to talk about My Driver but I stupidly cut it off!
      D’oh!!

    2. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I will be intrested to see how different the books are from your previous expectations. I’ll keep an eye out for your reviews!

  5. Stujallen says:

    strangely another was listening to her being interview on the open book podcast today jackie ,not ready any of hers wife has read ice people so could read that ,she wasn t over keen on it

    1. Jackie says:

      Stujallen, I haven’t heard of Ice People before, so I assume that isn’t one of her better books. I think starting with the White family is a good idea.

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