The Parting Glass

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

An absolutely fantastic work of fiction. I typically enjoy stories that tell the day-to-day details of 19th and 20th century servants, and this was no exception. Guadagnino's historical details were well-researched and well-incorporated, lending an immersive quality to the narrative. While there will never be enough representation of queer women throughout history in literature, this is certainly an excellent step in the right direction.
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Absolutely loved this novel! Excellent character development, the storyline was fluid and kept me in suspense and wanting to learn more about the characters.
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Mary Ballard is a lady's maid who happens to be deeply in love with her lady. And her lady, Charlotte, is deeply in love with Mary's twin brother. And Mary's twin brother, Seanin, is secretly involved in a New York street gang. 

I definitely enjoyed this queer historical fiction. It's very atmospheric and the historical elements are really strong. The ending was a little unsatisfying, and really I wish the whole book had been about a secondary character (Liddie!), who I found far more interesting than Mary and Charlotte. But overall, I'm happy that this queer story exists!
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This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book was fantastic. All of the requisite elements for inclusion on my keeper shelf were present. The primary and secondary characters were so fully developed they leapt off the page. The historical setting was accurate, engaging, and intriguing. The plot was full of completely plausible intricacies, and the ending was both unexpected and apropos. 
The relationship between Maire and Seanin is one of fierce sibling rivalry and singleminded devotion. The insidious love triangle that wrenches them apart is a profound exploration of the complexity of human emotion. The additional bonus of the Irish gangster setting makes it all the more compelling. I was enthralled by a world like that of the Gangs of New York, and read in horrified fascination as the tragedy unfolded.
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I have never been one to like books about political troubles, especially when it comes to the United States (I don’t know why, I just never have), but The Parting Glass has so much more going on within it than historical conflicts that, even though that obviously plays a big part, that I couldn’t put it down. 

Tackling subjects about sexuality, political conflict within New York when concerning the flux of Irish immigrants in the 19th century, gangs, race, sex work, and the parallels between the upper class and the working class, the book sets up a really good narrative that is not only fun, and heart wrenching to read, but shows how writers and readers are demanding these types of interplaying themes to reflect life. 

The story centers around siblings Maire O’Farren and her brother Seanin, both immigrants from Ireland who were more or less forced to leave to New York. The story follows their troubles concealing their identities, adjusting to their new lives, and concerning rising tensions in Irish politics. To add to it all, Maire is the lady’s maid to a woman that she falls for, but who falls for her brother. So… obviously it turns out great!

I love to see so many things tackled in a book. Do I think it was all spot on? No, I have at least four instances where I wrote “ugh” in the book (almost all concerning views on women, love, and sex work), but it was all part of the development, or regression in some cases, of the characters. Speaking of, I think this is one of the few times while reading that I felt that the characters were real developed people (another memorable time was while reading The Kite Runner) and that put me in a position where I neither liked or disliked them completely, but just saw them for the people they were. Secrets, idolization, familial love, the problems that come with immigration, prejudice, violence, love that knows no reason, and discrimination are all parts of these characters. 

The story’s central focus on human relationships of all kinds is what really shines and brings everything together as well as the attention to detail whether it be period clothing, processes on how to dress or make things, and Irish and British slang. It really came to life, although I could have done without the extremely long scenes about preparing for balls.

There were only three things I couldn’t stand all the way throughout the book: Charlotte (the lady that Maire attends to), Maire’s incessant love for Charlotte, and how little communicating the characters did when it truly mattered… in fact, it was very Romeo and Juliet-esque in the sense that actual communication could have saved them all a lot of grief, but it’s something that even the characters acknowledge at some point in the story. Charlotte was so privileged in every way due to her upbringing and seldom saw beyond her own feelings which ends up hurting everyone including herself and Maire’s love for Charlotte… was annoying in the way that, as Seanin points out, is just idolization without real substance.

To be fair though, a lot of the things that irked me were discussed within the story and made the characters come to life so I’m not faulting the writing, it’s just my personal feelings on the things that happened. It’s a lovely story and, at least to me, very different.
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Thia noon was even better than I had expected! It literally sucked me in from the first page, and I couldn’t put it down! 
The writing was superb! The storyline was unique, and exciting! Definitely one of my top read this year!!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own
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If whoever wrote the synopsis could write the story, that'd be great. I wasn't sure what was going on for most of the first half of the story and it didn't start to get good until about 75% of the way into it. 

I don't feel like the author spent enough time setting the scene or the severity of situations the characters were in. If it wasn't for the synopsis I would have been lost.

I received a free copy of the book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
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Not quite the story I was expecting, but it was entertaining and well written even though the premise was a little far fetched for the setting/time.
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The Parting Glass is an entertaining and touching historical mystery. The author takes great care to fully develop and explore the characters in this fascinating novel. Marie and Sainen are Irish siblings who have immigrated to New York. Fortunately, she finds employment as a maid and he as a stable boy. Marie unexpectedly falls in love with Charlotte, her employee. This illicit love sparks additional problems that endanger Marie’s life as well as the life of her brother. I enjoyed this period piece and welcome it as a well-timed change of pace in the mystery field.
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Thank you Atria Books for sending me an E-ARC, in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own. This review was supposed to post a while ago, however, something in must have glitched, and it never posted, so I am having to re-write my initial review.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 Stars.

This is another one of those books, that serves of a reminder of how much I love Historical Fiction Books. And it made me question why I do not read more. T.P.G. was a beautiful story. Well written, and totally grabs your attention, quickly. It was written with such a rich detail to History, and has one of the best love triangles I’ve read recently. The relationship between Brother and Sister was so eloquent, and touching. That was hands down my favorite part of this book.

I do not have a lot of history reading Historical Fiction, based on Irish Immigration, nor their politics, that didn’t stop me from devouring this book though. It was really in a class of its own. Not to mention, the cover is outstanding. I am so appreciative that I was invited to review this book.
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Oh my goodness, this novel is just so, SO good! The author brilliantly sets a scene, landing her readers directly into the middle of the fray. The characters are absolutely exquisite, with their own complexities, beautifully flawed and completely memorable. I loved every last word of this book, and can't recommend it enough!
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Reading Guadagnino’s book is an acute reminder of the volatile occupation of being a woman in the 19th century, regardless of the social class you are born into. If a woman is from high society, she would have to deal with the marriage mart. This means ornamenting herself to hook a suitable man, and while it may be easy to ascertain his wealth and status (though at times this is possible to fudge if the man is sneaky enough), she never really knows the temperament of the man she is marrying until she is in his life and in his bed; it is of course too late to say no by then. Guadagnino very aptly uses the imagery of a battlefield to describe this space women find themselves having to navigate. To work to be accomplished, yet not too accomplished; all that smarts and talents have no use in the making of heirs.

For a woman of humble origins like Mary Ballard (originally Maire O’Farren), our protagonist and narrator, it means a life of working herself to the bone, though this never even amounts to a decent living. It is interesting to have Mary as a narrator, a marginalised voice brought to the forefront, though at times the poetry of her words seems to contradict her own personal experience with reading and writing. But there is no way around it I suppose; a third person narrator wouldn’t be the best choice for traversing such intimate, feminine spaces.

Women are held back in private spaces as well, where the embracing of one’s sexuality and desire can allow them control over their bodies, but with that experience of desire also comes the possibility of pregnancy, which would mean the devastation of an unmarried woman’s reputation. Love is not the norm but a fool’s errand, which both Mary and mistress discover, much to the detriment of their hearts.

It can’t be an easy thing to witness the object of one’s affection bestow their love upon someone else, especially if that someone else is one’s own brother. Guadagnino builds the conflict between Mary and Seanin (who adopts the name Johnny Prior) from the start, though I have to admit I suspected incest before jealousy on Mary’s part. It did surprise me that Mary was openly gay after we discover her secret affection, especially with her brother and the men of her acquaintance. There didn’t seem to be any struggle within her to remain closeted, which is strange given the increased sense of intolerance prevalent at the time. I suppose it makes for interesting commentary that she is more guarded about her Irish roots than she is about her sexuality.

To rid herself of her strong affection for her mistress, Mary turns to Liddie, a lady of the night who is refreshingly unapologetic about her job. She takes a shine to Mary and helps her with her emotional plight by igniting her body’s pleasure (though we discover there is more to this chance encounter later on). I felt almost shy reading their sex scenes, however I was forced to get over my prudish sentiment given the nature of the book and its need for transgression. Every social boundary erected is pushed by Guadagnino’s characters, be it that of social class or gender norms.

The novel then extends itself beyond the domestic space into the world of politics. I must commend Guadagnino’s efforts in trying to work context and history into the narrative as naturally as possible. She maneuvers a slip into Seanin’s perspective so that his masculine point of view (through a third person narrator) would allow us further insight into the world he has become a part of. However, my one critique is that the novel meanders a bit too much, where there really isn’t a central conflict besides the constant bubbling of a possible eruption of social unrest.

It jumps about fervently through the spaces it wishes to pursue, such that I am caught up in both the feminine and masculine space – though I find myself having no care for the latter. When the novel focuses on the former, that’s where it engages the most. I am drawn in by Ballard’s tale – as an immigrant and a lower class woman. While it examines a time long past, the novel’s themes feel very relevant to the current state of the world, where there is a wariness in dealings of who we believe to be the outsider. Ballard is able to fit in and gain employment because of her ability to cast off her Irish lilt, but at what cost? If names form the basis of identity, then who is Ballard now that she is no longer Maire? The exploration of the self is a luxury that no woman could really afford at the time.

This is a solid debut effort which fans of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith will enjoy, and I hope Guadagnino capitalises on this momentum to give us more novels centred around such historical spaces, for she is clearly gifted in her prose and committed in her love affair with the setting. As far as historical fiction goes, Guadagnino has delivered. She accurately captures the chaotic, violent setting of 1830s New York, carefully layering and contrasting the worlds of the upstairs/downstairs. It is an amalgamation of Gangs of New York meets Downton Abbey, with a lush sexiness that is balanced by the examinations of the heart.
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THE PARTING GLASS is a beautifully written and heartbreaking tale of Mary Ballard, an Irish maid who becomes the unfortunate side of a love triangle with her mistress and her brother. The book is gorgeously written and well-researched, and really brings to life New York City in the 1830s and the struggle of Irish immigrants at the time. This is a strong character-driven novel that wraps up with a surprising ending. A bit long in parts, but well worth taking the journey with these unique characters. Impressive debut!
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My goodness, what a ride! Equal parts sensual, smart, and violent, The Parting Glass is a lavishly written, expertly detailed, historical drama. The cover blurb describes it as Downton Abbey meets Gangs of New York, which sums it up pretty perfectly. It’s also SO GAY. I’ve been on the hunt for stories that feature f/f relationships that do not somehow center around a man and this one fits the bill! Guadagnino has packed so much into her debut, seamlessly weaving several love stories together with the realties of immigrant life in 1830s Manhattan. She also masterfully juxtaposes upstairs/downstairs culture with the harsh and gritty portrayal of Tammany Hall.

After an unexpected and painful departure from Ireland, Marie O’Farren and her devoted twin brother, Seanin find themselves on the shores of Manhattan with only the clothes on their backs. They make their way to the pub of a family friend who is able to help them secure work together at the Walden household–Seanin as a groom and Marie as a lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden. In order to survive in America they must hide their Irish identities, and so become Mary Ballard and Johnny Prior of no relation. Each Thursday they’re able to shed these new personas as they secretly make their way back to their friend Dermot’s pub for the night.

From the moment she laid eyes on Charlotte Walden, Mary was hopelessly and desperately in love. Despite the intimacy formed during their time together, Mary’s love remains unrequited as Charlotte’s heart belongs to Johnny, who she has been seeing in secret. Each week Mary leaves her window open at Charlotte’s request, so Johnny can sneak in and be with her. Each night after, Mary must push all of her pain and jealousy aside as she and Johnny carefully walk across the city and back to the Hibernian, where they live on their nights off.  After several months, all of Mary’s pent up frustration finally finds a grateful release in the arms (and bed) of Liddie, a local prostitute.

Despite their mutual love, Johnny knows that Charlotte will not be with him. As one of the central figure’s of Manhattan’s high society, it would be an impossibility for Charlotte to marry her groom. It is with this knowledge that he begins to look for a means change his status, and he eventually finds a high ranking place within Tammany Hall. Mary and Charlotte know nothing of Johnny’s second life until it all comes to a head one fateful night. What follows is a desperate unraveling of the carefully tied up secrets of Marie, Seanin, Charlotte, and so many others.

I read The Parting Glass in a single sitting. Guadagnino’s detailed writing, dynamic characters, lush setting, intricate plot, and steamy sex all combined together to form a perfect historical fiction. Her depictions of everything from the Walden house to the streets of Manhattan were crafted with so much care that I felt like I was there. She took that same care breathing life into each one of her characters, making them all memorable and distinct.  This book is so so good and I truly cannot wait to read more of her work!

A huge thanks to Edelweiss and Atria Books for this advanced review copy in exchange for  my honest review!!

Will post a review to Amazon as well on pub day!
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Thank you, Netgalley, for this arc. The writing is beautiful, and the story is kind of a cross between Downton Abbey and Sarah Waters' Fingersmith. The ending was a surprise to me, as the book didn't conclude the way I would have imagined.
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Well-written, lush, and sad story. I really love this novel, an amazing book that you cannot put down through the well-researched historical background, the descriptions of the city, and the beauty of characters. 
Many thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the  ARC in exchange for an honest review
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This debut novel asks the reader to suspend belief in order to accept that Mary Ballard, an Irish immigrant, to New York can develop the skills needed to shed her Irish persona to become a lady’s maid to a debutante. There is no indication that Mary has come to New York with any experience as a lady's maid for a lady of the house. And Mary is able to speak like an educated woman with no trace of her native brogue. We are also asked to believe that the hard-drinking swearing-like-a-sailor Mary is accepted by the regulars in an Irish pub in the early 19th century and doesn’t slip into that Mary while serving her employer. She also gets drunk every Thursday night and ends up retching in the alley behind the pub before staggering inside to sleep on a pallet in the pub’s basement – and no one notices the aftermath of her nights out when she arrives back at her employer’s home. Added to the list of hard-to-believe details that this author includes just in the first 50 or so pages is that Mary is given her own, albeit tiny, bedroom on the same floor as the family.

While this debut had enormous potential because of Mary Ballard, suspending belief and being able to ignore one’s knowledge of history will not be for everyone.
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Romantic ~ Evocative ~ Heartrending

tl;dr: Class often trumps love

This book tells of love affairs and friendships in Gilded Age New York between Irish immigrants and the American wealthy set. Mary's brother John and her employer Charlotte fall in love. The story is a well-done look into the America of the time, with all its classism and prejudice. Unlike some depictions, this one does a great job of centering the quiet power of women (like the ways that poor women have mobility) and also the ways that women are trapped by male power. I won't lie; this is a tear-jerker. But, even that is a testament to the power of the writing. Really love historical romance. Well-written and sad. 

4.5

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A gritty, yet breathtaking dip into the world of 19th century New York. Meticulously researched, with great care given to depicting the racism of the time against the Irish, and to the love that bloomed between women who were often not well treated by the men of that world. It's a beautiful and heartbreaking book with passion woven into its very seams. I devoured this debut and can't wait to see what Guadagnino will write next!
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Beautiful writing and storytelling. A story of a brother and sister. A story of love. Historical fiction also focusing on gay love is rare and a gem to find.
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