Book Review: Marriage Conflicts for the Guinness Sisters in the Captivating Emily Hourican Sequel

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The Guinness Girls: a hint of scandal

mily houricane

Hatchet, € 13.99

Whwhat will your wedding look like? Aileen Plunket, née Guinness, asks her sister, Maureen Guinness, in the front pages of Emily Hourican’s new novel, The Guinness Girls: a hint of scandal. This is the central question of this book, which follows Hourican 2020’s work on the famous sisters, The Glorious Guinness Girls – marriage and the possibilities, or not, that it gives to the three daughters of Ernest Guinness.

“Perfect in every way, of course,” Maureen replies with typical pride. In fact, marriage is, to varying degrees, frustrating, lonely, demeaning and disempowering for Guinness girls.

The narrative switches between the trio – Aileen, Maureen, Oonagh – and Kathleen, a Guinness family aide who is part companion, part housekeeper, and who provides an outside perspective on this sprawling family drama, as well as the social change that occurs outside of their cloistered world.

Aileen is now married and spends most of her time in Dublin at Luttrellstown Castle. An increasingly bitter character, she feels stifled and frustrated in her marriage to the rather unhappy “Brinny”; his name in the diary pages of newspapers gives him “a sense of importance that was absent for much of the rest of his life.” Maureen marries the impressive ‘Duff’, Marquess of Dufferin and Ava for love. The middle sister, Maureen is the weirdest of Three; her own voracious nature works against her and ultimately destroys what could have been a happy couple. Dissatisfied, she turns more and more towards alcohol and violent rages. At one point she reflects on “a lot of things that need to be fixed because there was nothing else to do, no way to change them, just accept them and absorb them.”

Oonagh, the youngest and most timid of the sisters, is stuck in a loveless marriage, her natural inclinations for motherhood viewed with horror by most of those around her. By the end of the book, divorce, among them all, becomes a more acceptable option thanks in part to Diana Mitford’s affair and subsequent marriage to Oswald Mosley. None of the Guinness sisters are as blatant as their friend, but, like the subtitle, A hint of scandal, suggests, some express their dissatisfaction with life by mingling, to varying degrees, with extramarital chatter.

The book opens in London, 1930, at the precipice of a decade that would completely transform their world. As much as it is a gripping tale of a sprawling family and its various trials and peccadilloes, it is also a fascinating tale of a decade of social unrest. Fans of the original book will find all of the beautifully rendered weekend settings at the country houses and extravagant balls of the original, but it’s much more than a nostalgic rose-tinted nostalgic homage to a lost time.

Hourican incisively questions the gender values ​​and social mores of the aristocratic circles within which the Guinness family operates. “I don’t know how to do anything but be married,” Aileen mused sadly at one point. As the world around them changes completely, opening up to women to some extent, the materially blessed Guinness Girls seem ill-equipped to create a life that will leave them with nothing but discontent. .

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