The Parting Glass

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

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. 


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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This is being billed as being tailored for those of us who love [book:Fingersmith|8913370], so I had to pick it up; and I am not disappointed that I did. 

Much like Fingersmith there are some twists and turns and an upstairs/downstairs romance, but I think that the setting here plaid a greater role. I quite enjoyed the descriptions of 19th century New York, especially after reading the author's afterword detailing her love affair with the city and its history. 

I thought it a bit unlikely that no one would notice that Seanin and Maire were twins, and how quite a few people were presented as having a relatively open mind about two women in a relationship together.

I also got a bit annoyed when one character referred to herself as a 'gay girl', when the first documented use of the word 'gay' to signify 'homosexuality' was recorded in 1953, like a 100+ years after this book.  But this seems to me like the only element that was really out of place. Everything else, pacing, characterization and descriptions were wonderful. 

I'd recommend this to lovers of historical fiction, and those trying to read more diversely.
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Gina Marie Guadagnino's debut novel is rich with history and imagery, and is unlike any historical fiction novel I have read before. The book stars a small cast of characters, narrated by Mary Ballard - aka Maire O'Farren. Mary is a lady's maid and has quite a few secrets of her own. By day she is prim, proper, and the perfect example of a lady's maid to her beloved Charlotte Walden. By night, she is Maire, a regular at the pub, drinking and swearing with the rest of the boys. This is all complicated by the love triangle she finds herself in. A love triangle that involves her lady and her own brother.

I wasn't sure if I liked Maire at first; she was prickly and honestly was not easy to root for at first. But as we learn more about her backstory, I grew more sympathetic to her and her own confusion. I also grew to appreciate some of the other characters in the book, especially Liddie and Dermot. I did wish for a bit more development of Charlotte, as Mary's feelings towards her are incredibly important to the story. 

Perhaps the best thing about this story was how much I learned about a time in U.S. history that I knew almost nothing about. I was unaware of how much racism existed toward the Irish and how this figured into U.S. politics in the 1830s. I knew nothing of the underground world that the Irish created for themselves. I found this aspect of the novel the most interesting and honestly wished for more!

Overall, this book was a good read but I felt like the ending wrapped things up a little too quickly. Also, fair warning that there is a goodly amount of strong language, graphic sex, and violence (including violence against women). I would recommend this book to someone who is interested in a gritty upstairs-downstairs story with Sapphic undertones. It is unlike anything I have read from the historical fiction genre!
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I did not care for this book at all. It was dull, dragged on, and refused to hold my interest. Overall not my type of book
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Have you ever wanted someone so badly, but knew that they were out of your reach?  Mary Ballard in Gina Marie Guadagnino's The Parting Glass, can understand how you feel.  She knows that if her employer knew her true background, she would be sent away.  However she loves her mistress more than she can imagine.  So much so that she keeps her mistress' secrets, even when it drives a wedge between her and her brother.  So what does she do when her mistress' secrets maybe found out?  Now that her mistress knows Mary's secrets as well, is she in jeopardy?  The parting glass will have you reading at a break neck speed to find out what happens next.  Wonderfully told and historically correct.  Awesome read!
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The Parting Glass is a complex story. Layers of lies from the characters begin to unravel. The plot unfolds as secrets are revealed and hard choices must be made. Family or self? Reputation or love? The story is engaging and hard to put down. It's the kind that pulls you in and keeps your interest until the end. A great read. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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