You don’t need to have read Emily Hourican’s first book on Guinness Girls to enjoy this sequel.
However, there is every chance that you will hurry to read The Glorious Guinness Girls once you’ve devoured this one. Both books are about three glamorous heiresses, daughters of Ernest Guinness (great-grandson of the first Arthur, the founder of the brewery) who were 1920s icons in Dublin and London.
The first book takes us through their privileged but complicated childhood in the stately home in the Dublin suburb of Chapelizod against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, followed by their launch into the London Society season.
The purpose of the girls there was to find suitable husbands. The research included a lot of fun for these members of a social group famous for their wild and extravagant parties. They spent their time with Stephen Tennant, Elizabeth Ponsonby, ‘Baby’ Jungman and Zita Jungman and Evelyn Waugh, nicknamed the Bright Young Things by the media at the time.
The Guinness Girls: a hint of scandal sees the three girls and many of their social friends, including Diana Mitford, newly married or engaged and barely in her twenties. Times have changed. It is 1930 and now the backdrop is the Great Depression with “unemployment and starving men marching to London”.
Most Bright Young Things had a pampered youth, followed by a crazy time in London, drinking, smoking, and feigning boredom. As they settle into marriage and – very quickly – babies, they realize that this is not what they expected and the boredom often becomes very real. They still throw parties with Evelyn Waugh, but more and more new husbands, most with stately titles and heaps, are demanding that they spend more time in the country.
Aileen, the eldest, now lives in Luttrellstown Castle and has already had her first baby. Like her mother Cloé before her, she leaves her child to the nanny. Cloé’s interest in small children is minimal. As Oonagh is expecting her first child, Cloé expresses her disgust. “Wait until you feel it beat. Horrible. “She barely recognizes her grandchildren. When Oonagh wants to spend time with her baby, she is fired by everyone, including her husband, Philip. Cracks are already appearing in several marriages.
The latest to marry is the fiery younger sister, Maureen, who becomes the Marquise de Dufferin and Ava. She spends her honeymoon in a tent in the Indian jungle and intends to continue the social whirlwind in London with her new husband, Basil Blackwood, nicknamed “Duff”. However, Duff’s father dies while on their honeymoon, and Maureen has to come to terms with her damp, drafty, sprawling mansion in Clandeboye, County Down. She is also expecting a baby.
The Guinness girls never got involved in politics or anything outside of their privileged circle. Yet the author could not ignore the events unfolding around them. The political situation in Britain in the 1930s became polarized. Oonagh’s Irish maid begins a relationship with Communist Ned. Diana Mitford is very attached to the British politician Oswald Mosley, who will become the leader of the British Union of Fascists. Among the social ensemble there is gambling, business, bizarre deaths, alcoholism and painful childhoods for the next generation of privileged children and there is certainly a hint of scandal as they are scrutinized. close by the media.
Although this is a fictional version of the Guinness Girls’ lives as young women in the 1930s, it is very well documented and Hourican claims much of it is true. The book is an utterly captivating glimpse into these fascinating women and the times in which they lived.
Their cavalier attitude towards alcohol and smoking, even during pregnancy, will shock modern readers, as will their attitude towards their legions of servants below. Maureen never even meets her cook in Clandeboye.
He’s an absolute page turner.
Fiction, The Guinness Girls: A Touch of Scandal by Emily Hourican
Hachette Ireland, 496 pages, hardcover € 14.99; eBook £ 7.99