A magnificent debut exploring passion, obsession, and the social unrest in a turbulent period of American and Irish history. There are no frills in this novel of lady's maids and high society, where Guadagnino instead has chosen to expose the whalebone beneath in all its discomforts. The sibling rivalry, unrequited love, and the young gay female point of view from which the story is told all make this a remarkable work. Guadagnino has written a compelling story with nuanced characters against a well-researched historical backdrop. I look forward to more from her. — Hanna Yost
Devoted maid Mary Ballard’s world is built on secrets, and it’s about to be ripped apart at the seams, in this lush and evocative debut set in 19th century New York, perfect for fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin.
By day, Mary Ballard is lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, wealthy and accomplished belle of New York City high society. Mary loves Charlotte with an obsessive passion that goes beyond a servant’s devotion, but Charlotte would never trust Mary again if she knew the truth about her devoted servant’s past. Because Mary’s fate is linked to that of her mistress, one of the most sought-after debutantes in New York, Mary’s future seems secure—if she can keep her own secrets…
But on her nights off, Mary sheds her persona as prim and proper lady’s maid to reveal her true self—Irish exile Maire O’Farren—and finds release from her frustration in New York’s gritty underworld—in the arms of a prostitute and as drinking companion to a decidedly motley crew consisting of a barkeeper and members of a dangerous secret society.
Meanwhile, Charlotte has a secret of her own—she’s having an affair with a stable groom, unaware that her lover is actually Mary’s own brother. When the truth of both women’s double lives begins to unravel, Mary is left to face the consequences. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother and loyalty to Charlotte, between society’s respect and true freedom, Mary finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.
A captivating historical fiction of 19th century upstairs/downstairs New York City, TheParting Glass examines sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. A perfectly paced, romantically charged story of overlapping love triangles that builds to a white-knuckle climax, this is an irresistible debut that’s impossible to put down.
About the Author
Gina Marie Guadagnino holds a BA in English from New York University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School. Her work has appeared in the Morris-Jumel Mansion Anthology of Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction, Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader). She lives in New York City with her family.
"Downton Abbey meets Gangs of New York in this darkly compelling debut. In a world where high-society debutantes and industry titans live oblivious of the immigrant poor and desperate on their doorsteps, proud and clever Irishwoman Mary Ballard moves easily between both spheres, acting by day as prim lady's maid to society heiress Charlotte Walden and letting loose by night in the company of her reckless twin brother and his gang of none-too-savory compatriots. Mary harbors a secret passion for the beautiful Charlotte, who only has eyes for Mary's brother, and this claustrophobic love triangle of stifled desire and class warfare plays out to deadly, devastating effect. A gem of a novel to be inhaled in one gulp." — Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network
"Read The Parting Glass for its rich tapestry of 1830s lower Manhattan, where the stately drawing rooms of wealthy WASPs on Washington Square are sustained by the cheap labour drawn from the tenements nearby. Or read it as a fascinating study of immigration and social class, race and ethnicity, religion and sexuality in early New York. Or as the tale of Maire O'Farrell and her twin brother Seanin, fresh off the boat, who help each other lie to get work in a wealthy household—until they both fall in love with the daughter of the house. Or read it as a tragedy of lies and a triumph of love, or a delicious subversion of the marriage plot. But read it." — Nicola Griffith, author of Hild and So Lucky
“Knotted thickly with secrets both fervid and calculating, to read The Parting Glass is to enter a jungle of passions and lies. Immaculately researched and gorgeously written, this book is noteworthy for its grasp of the agony caused by hiding cracks in the human heart. A thoughtful, lyrical, sensuous, moving tour-de-force.” — Lyndsay Faye, author of Jane Steele
"Delectable....Guadagnino’s story of the sumptuous world of the privileged and the precarious, difficult environs of the immigrant working poor is highlighted by vibrant characters and a well-paced plot, which will pull readers into the tangled tale."
“Set in nineteenth-century New York, Guadagnino's erotically charged debut novel is packed with intrigue, confessions, and betrayal. Fans of Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures (2009) and Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See (2014) will be impressed by Guadagnino's vivid portrayal of female companionship and the blurred boundaries of friendship, love, and something deeper. Exploring class mobility and identity, The Parting Glass is an impressive debut.”
“The slow unfolding of Maire’s story is well-done as Guadagnino reveals details morsel by morsel…The careful explanations of life in the Walden house are well-drawn, and anyone who has watched Downton Abbey will feel right at home…Guadagnino should be commended for tackling a much-ignored piece of our past and giving voice to those who didn’t have one in 1837.”
“Well-researched historical details lend authenticity to Guadagnino’s captivating work, right down to the diction of the dialog. The limited opportunities afforded to women and immigrants by society colors this tale of passion and lies, which will appeal especially to fans of Sarah Waters.”