One shared destiny
-The Glorious Guinness Girls
[ About the Book ]
The Glorious Guinness Girls are the toast of London and Dublin society. Darlings of the press, Aileen,
Maureen and Oonagh lead charmed existences that are the envy of many.
But Fliss knows better. Sent to live with them as a child, she grows up as part of the family and only she knows of the complex lives beneath the glamorous surface.
Then, at a party one summer’s evening, something happens which sends shockwaves through the entire household. In the aftermath, as the Guinness sisters move on,
Fliss is forced to examine her place in their world and decide if where she finds herself is where she truly belongs.
Set amid the turmoil of the Irish Civil War and the brittle glamour of 1920s London, The Glorious Guinness Girls is inspired by one of the most fascinating family dynasties in the world – an unforgettable novel of reckless youth, family loyalty and destiny.
If you loved Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia or Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife,you will adore The Glorious Guinness Girls.
[ My Review ]
The Glorious Guinness Girls by Emily Hourican will be published September 17th with Hachette. It is described as ‘a glorious, gripping, moving and richly textured novel which takes us to the heart of the remarkable real-life story of the Guinness Girls‘ and is a book I was really looking forward to reading. I must admit to knowing very little about the Guinness family and I was quite fascinated by the lifestyle of these three sisters as they socialised in the circle of the notorious ‘The Bright Young People’ of 1920s London.
Emily Hourican takes a small step back in their lives introducing us to the family as they lived in Glenmaroon, their palatial residence in Dublin. Arthur ‘Ernest’ Guinness was the son of Lord Iveagh, owner of the Guinness Empire and a man of extreme wealth. Ernest was sent to assist with the running of the brewery at James’s Gate. With his wife, Marie Clothilde ‘Cloé’ Russell, they transformed their original dwelling into a plush and ostentatious residence, Glenmaroon. Their home comprised of two separate buildings interconnected by a walkway bridge, with the idea that one was for everyday use and the other for entertaining. The wealth of this family is so very difficult to comprehend but, back then, during the years of civil unrest in a country trying to establish itself as independent, this show of aristocratic wealth stuck in the throat of many and, as history tells us, instilled much anger in many more.
Emily Hourican intertwines factual elements of the Guinness story with a fictional story about a young girl, Felicity ‘Fliss’ Burke, from Co. Wexford. Fliss is taken under the wing of the Guinness family to accompany their daughters and to help keep them out of trouble. Fliss returns to Glenmarron in 1978 to look through papers that have been discovered, ones that relate to those early years when The Guinness family lived there. Now a care home, much has changed, and as the memories flood in, Fliss recounts those years and takes the reader on a journey to her formative years and into the world of The Guinness Girls.
Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh Guinness were stifled with their lives. Each day was based on rules and regulations. With their father oft-times away for work and a mother with a nervous disposition, the three girls were lost and lonely. The boundaries set for them were very strict. They were The Guinness Girls with a reputation to uphold and an expected path laid out before them. When Fliss arrived, she was very young, understandably very nervous and of course overwhelmed by the lavish lifestyle before her. Fliss’s family had fallen on difficult times, her clothes threadbare in comparison. These girls lived sheltered lives, making demands, dismissing staff and being totally wrapped up in their own existence. But underneath the veneer are three girls just looking for attention, looking to be loved.
Fliss brings excitement into their lives when her older brother Hughie and his friend Richard arrive for visits to Glenmaroon. The presence of boys adds variety to their mundane lives but what none of them know is that the seeds of discontent are being scattered and these innocent days will not last for this bunch of youngsters.
As the unrest of the Irish Civil War puts fear among the aristocracy, with houses being burned down, and disdain being shown, Ernest makes a decision to pack up and leave Glenmaroon, moving the whole family back to the safety of his London residence. Fliss is distraught, not wanting to leave Ireland, but decisions are made and the girls embark on the next stage of their lives.
1920s London, following the First World War, was a hotbed for hedonistic play. The young folk were sick of the darkness of the previous years and wanted to escape the confines, rebel, have fun. The world was changing. Society was changing. For those with wealth, London became their playground and for The Guinness Girls, it became a place where they could throw off their perceived shackles and finally have some real fun. They soon became part of the circle known as The Bright Young People, counting Baby and Zita Jungman, Elizabeth Ponsonby, Stephen Tennant and many more as their friends. Living a decadent and carefree lifestyle, flamboyancy was de riguer, the more daring the better.
Emily Hourican wraps Fliss’s story around these years as she struggles to find her own identity, her independence from this high-intensity lifestyle. Fliss is caught between the world she wishes to inhabit and this fast-moving and exhausting world of The Glorious Guinness Girls.
The Glorious Guinness Girls is not just the story of Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh Guinness. They are a very important part of the novel but as Emily Hourican says –
“This is a work of fiction. There are characters based on real people, and there are invented characters, but all are part of a fictional landscape.
I have woven my story around specific historical moments, and the challenge of that was to plot a story that took in these moments and made sense of them – a kind of join-the-dots, with fiction weaving in and out of fixed historical points”
The Glorious Guinness Girls is a joy to read. I would whole-heartedly agree that it is a must for all Downton Abbey fans. Society was going through huge change in the early twentieth century and the notion of the ‘big house’ was beginning to be seen differently. Emily Hourican charts these years through the eyes of Felicity Burke and brings the reader on a very insightful and thoroughly enjoyable journey. I always say that I love a book that encourages me to do further research and The Glorious Guinness Girls did just that. It is well worth taking a look online for articles posted over the years and to see for yourself the grandeur of Glenmaroon and the antics of Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh, although Maureen stands out as the most eccentric of them all!
The Glorious Guinness Girls is a gorgeous book, a captivating tale about a young girl caught up in the lifestyle of this family that continues to fascinate, The Guinness Family. And I have to mention the cover, isn’t it just so very striking? Perfectly suited to it’s contents.
“I think about how much we grew apart. Or were forced apart. By their fortune, but also by the things that happened that summer that felt like a beginning but turned out to be an end”
[ Bio ]
Emily Hourican is a journalist and author. She has written features for the Sunday Independent for fifteen years, as well as Image magazine, Conde Nast Traveler and Woman and Home. She was also editor of The Dubliner Magazine. Emily’s first book, a memoir titled How To (Really) Be A Mother was published in 2013.
She is also the author of novels The Privileged, White Villa, The Outsider and The Blamed.
She lives in Dublin with her family.
Twitter ~ @EmilyH71