The Glorious Guinness Girls

Grand Central. May 2021. 400p. ISBN 9781538720233. pap. $16.99. F
Irish novelist Hourican (The Privileged) looks at the heiresses to the Guinness brewery fortune; Aileen, Maureen, and Oonagh were the It Girls of London and Ireland from the late 1900s through the 1930s. This novel brings their personalities to life, through the first-person narration of Felicity, aka “Fliss,” a (sort-of) poor relation who lives with the Guiness family after her father dies. The book’s dual timeline catches up with Fliss in 1978, when she revisits the family home in Ireland to sort through a cache of old family papers stored in the attic. As Fliss separates musty pieces of the past, she reflects on her life with the glamorous Guiness sisters. She’s still tormented by the fateful moment when her obsessive loyalty to the family slipped, and its ramifications.
VERDICT This book’s title is mildly misleading, since the novel focuses less on the Guinness sisters and more on Fliss and the political turmoil raging outside the privileged walls of wealth and class. The tragedy that haunts them is palpable, but the story is unfortunately bogged down by too many characters and shallow society parties, and by Fliss’s overplayed guilt complex. After a promising start, the story quickly loses steam, eventually ending on a flat note.
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