The Glorious Guinness Girls by Emily Hourican
About the Glorious Guinness Girls:
From London to Ireland during the 1920s, this glorious, gripping, and richly textured story takes us to the heart of the remarkable real-life story of the Guinness Girls—perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia.
Descendants of the founder of the Guinness beer empire, they were the toast of 1920s high society, darlings of the press, with not a care in the world. But Felicity knows better. Sent to live with them as a child because her mother could no longer care for her, she grows up as the sisters’ companion. Both an outsider and a part of the family, she witnesses the complex lives upstairs and downstairs, sees the compromises and sacrifices beneath the glamorous surface. Then, at a party one summer’s evening, something happens that sends shock waves through the entire household.
Inspired by a remarkable true story and fascinating real events, The Glorious Guinness Girls is an unforgettable novel about the haves and have-nots, one that will make you ask if where you find yourself is where you truly belong.
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Market a book for Downton Abbey fans and I’m all in! The Glorious Guinness Girls is mostly set in the 1920s. It follows the tale of three fabulously wealthy sisters, and their (fictional) companion Felicity.
As someone who loves books within this time period, I thought that the story was well set. The research felt detailed and the descriptions and writing evoked the feel of the era. The first half of the book focuses on the girls’ growing up in their home in Dublin. I found the mention of the Irish Civil War thoroughly intriguing and would have loved even more discussion surrounding that time. Because of the unrest, Ernest moves the girls to London. It’s here that the second half of the book transforms into a series of wild parties and high society life.
In terms of characters, there were a lot of them in this book. And due to their position in society, most of them were (obviously) rather entitled. All three of the Guinness girls came across as selfish, unseeing, and lacking any sort of redemption. While I found their antics to be interesting, they weren’t particularly likable characters.
The character of Felicity, however, is in complete contrast to the sisters. She is solid, unassuming, and faithfully diligent in her service to the Guinness family. While the book revolves around three sisters, this novel is really Felicity’s story. (If you’re specifically looking for the history of the Guinness family, I wouldn’t recommend this one.) The narrative is engaging and immersive — and told from a youthful perspective.
I also really appreciated how Fliss wrestled with the feeling of “belonging” and finding her identity apart from the girls she was with. I think that’s a relatable struggle across generations and was a strong addition to the story.
My mixed feelings about this book are actually due, I believe, to the marketing of this novel. On the back cover, part of the description says, “At a party one summer’s evening, something happens that sends shock waves through the entire household.” While this hints at scandal and glitz, I found that the actual story lacked some of the suspense and drama it purported. While this is just one example, in many ways, it summarizes my main critiques for this story.
Not knowing anything about the Guinness sisters, I definitely enjoyed this fictionalized narrative. This is a slow but lovely piece about 1920s society. I found it to be a beautifully written historical novel and definitely recommend for fans of the genre.