The Parting Glass by Gina Marie GuadagninoThe Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino

The Parting Glass

byGina Marie Guadagnino

Hardcover | March 5, 2019

see the collection LGBTQ+ Fiction

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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, The Parting 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.
Title:The Parting GlassFormat:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 1.1 inPublished:March 5, 2019Publisher:Atria BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501198416

ISBN - 13:9781501198410

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Read from the Book

The Parting Glass In some families, there are secrets on which the welfare, and perhaps the very existence of the persons concerned may depend. —The Duties of a Lady’s Maid WASHINGTON SQUARE, 1837 It was Thursday again, and once more I was courting misery with both arms open wide. “Thank you, Ballard, that will do,” Miss Charlotte Walden said, and, bobbing a curtsy, I showed myself quickly from the room. The heavy oak door shut solidly, with a soft click following as the lock was engaged. The Argand lamps threw but dim illumination along the heavy carpet lining the hall, casting flickering shadows amongst the birds and flowers woven there. I made my way along the muffled corridor to the door that led into the servants’ stair. On the landing was the door to my own narrow chamber. I pressed myself to this barrier, one ear flat against the wood. Through the door, I could only just make out the muffled scrape of the window opening in the room beyond. It was all so faint, in the faded light on the landing, almost dreamlike. I let my forehead rest against the door, my eyes closed. I strained for the sound of the bed, imagining its creak coming through the door as a whisper once, twice, again. Quick footfalls broke my reverie, and I lurched from the door as Mrs. Harrison came up the stair. I froze, my ears still straining, but the heavy oak was my mistress’s shield. One hand went up involuntarily to see my hair was straight, and I nodded to the imposing housekeeper. “Miss Ballard. Is it not your night off?” “Yes, Mrs. Harrison, mum.” “Is Miss Walden abed and all your duties discharged?” she asked, her face placid, her tone bland. “Indeed they are, Mrs. Harrison.” “Then I see no cause for you to linger when you might very well go.” “Yes, thank you, mum.” Beneath Mrs. Harrison’s critical eye, I hurried down the back stairs to the kitchen. I stopped on the landing to arrange my face into a mask of tranquillity before I faced Cook. “Night off, Miss Ballard?” the big woman asked, as though she didn’t already know the answer. “Yes, Mrs. Freedman, mum.” “Bit of a snack for you then, child.” She gestured at a small parcel with the knife she held. “Right then, off with you.” Mrs. Freedman, brusque with everyone, always took the time to show me kindness in her own harsh way. She was under no obligation to feed me extra on my night off, but she often did it anyway, suspicious in that chronic way of cooks that I was not adequately fed unless she was doing the feeding. “All skin and bones, that one,” I heard her mutter as she returned to her chopping. “See you bundle well, child,” she said, raising her voice again. “It’s turned snowy again.” I huddled into my wool mantle, tying my bonnet firmly under my chin. No mitts or gloves had I, but only Charlotte Walden’s muff from four seasons ago, the fur patchy and worn near to the skin. Thus attired, I nodded farewell to Cook and slipped out the kitchen door. I made my way down the snowy cobbles to the gate at the end of the mews, should anyone be watching from the windows, then doubled back along the other side of the block and ducked inside the street door to our own carriage house. The horses nickered softly, cold air gusting down the row of stalls from the open door. Moonlight and streetlamps lit my way across the flagstones to the Waldens’ coach, black and hulking. The door stuck a little as I opened it and crawled in to sit on the floor. I breathed in deeply the smells of the carriage house: sweet hay and oat mash, worn leather, brass polish, and the musky scent of horse. Such aromas as had clung to my father. I opened Cook’s parcel to nibble at my portion of bread and cheese, listening to the wind rattle the shutters. Licking my fingers, brushing the crumbs from my skirt, I settled in to wait. It was nearly pitch dark when Seanin arrived, the streetlamps having guttered low. I had dozed off with my head on the carriage seat, but woke at once when he touched my arm. In the wan light, he smiled, his eyes gleaming. I smiled back, took his glove, and let him hand me down from the coach like the lady I’d never be. Softly, so our boots wouldn’t ring on the flagstones, we slipped out the carriage house’s front door onto the street. A clock struck one over at St. Mark’s as we made our way east out onto Broadway. A sudden gust as we rounded the corner threw me off-balance; I moved into the proffered circle of his arm, huddling close against him. A light snow fell, swirling in eddies over the cobbles, and I gripped his arm to keep from slipping on the shell of ice formed over the street. The houses and shops that lined the way were dark, silent, and we had gone several blocks south before we saw lights dancing behind curtained windows and either of us dared speak. “Have you eaten?” he asked me quietly in Irish. “I have,” I whispered back. “Have you?” “I ate. But I’m not yet satisfied.” He smiled wickedly; I shoved him, grinning in spite of myself. We crossed over Houston and down to one of the narrow side streets, a swell of light and noise rising to meet us as we came to Lafayette. Warm light and capering shadows thrown from the windows of public houses and dance halls stained the snow, a mix of song and laughter escaping from behind the doors. The Hibernian stood on Mulberry Street, on a block crammed full of public houses and a handful of the more respectable sorts of brothels. Like its neighbors, it catered almost exclusively to Irish, though one might find the rare Italian or Prussian who’d wandered north out of the Sixth Ward, the borders of which were still confined to the south. It was already all Catholics then in Mulberry Street, but the Hibernian was full of lilting voices from every corner of the island. Here, broad Galway vowels rubbed up against rapid Belfast chatter and clipped Dublin drawl. And from behind the bar, his heavy brogue booming over the din, reigned Dermot John O’Brien, proprietor and publican, who nodded to us as we entered. We nodded back, weaving our way through the patrons packing the place. At a cramped bench in the back, I waited while Seanin sidled up to the bar. When he returned, he held two mugs in each hand, foam streaming down the sides. I had slipped off my bonnet and mantle, my face flushed from the heat of the room, and, reaching for one of the mugs, gulped down half its contents in one swig. “Easy now,” he said, speaking English this time. “It’ll go straight to your head.” “Fuck it, Johnny,” I said, using his English name. I took another swallow, having by now dropped the posh accent I adopted in the Waldens’ home and slipping back into my native brogue. “Just because you’re buying there’s no call to be an ass.” He spread his hands in a defenseless sort of gesture that I had been growing lately to despise. I turned my eyes back to my ale, scowling. He was always a great one for ruining a moment. My temper up, we drank then in silence; the amber firelight from the hearth seemed to suffuse the amber liquid in my mug. From time to time, I saw him nod or say a word in acknowledgment of other patrons, men I recognized as friends of his, but I kept my eyes firmly on my ale, refusing stubbornly to meet anyone’s gaze. At last he sighed loudly. “What now?” He shrugged with exaggerated casualness. “Might go greet the lads, if you weren’t feeling social.” “It’s all the same to me.” “Grand,” he said, clinking his glass cockily to mine and sauntering into the press toward a knot of his cronies. I relocated to the bar in the hopes of engaging Dermot in a lengthy discourse on Seanin’s many faults, but the bustle kept him moving up and down the counter, too busy refilling mugs with ale and topping off glasses of whiskey to do more than keep my own mug filled and shrug apologetically at me as he moved on to less sullen patrons. I counted seven rounds before the room began to blur and sway, the light and laughter swirling like the gustings of snow that still fell, before a sudden smack of cold stung my cheeks. Seanin was holding my shoulders firmly as I retched in the alley behind the Hibernian, the icy wind sobering. I shook his arm from my shoulders, pushing past him back into the pub. Weaving between the scattered remaining patrons, I made my way to the stairs at the back of the bar, sketching a rough salute to Dermot as I passed him. He reached out to steady me as I swayed, but I waved him off, leaning heavily against the wall for balance. I descended, making my way past the casks and kegs to a double pallet spread out by the hearth. I could hear Seanin hurrying behind me, and sat, legs splayed, waiting for him on the pallet. My braid had come down, uncoiling over my shoulder, which I noted in a detached sort of way as I allowed him to remove my boots and stockings. I bent forward, nose to my knees, and waited for him to unbutton me enough to slide my frock over my head. I felt his fingers clumsily picking at the knots in my stays, and moved to help him unlace me. I was shivering then, clad only in my thin shift, lying back onto the pallet, my eyes closed as I listened to him move about the room. I heard him building up the fire, felt him sit heavily onto the pallet beside me, pulling the layers of blankets up around me to stop me shivering. I rolled over on my side and took his hand, pressing it gratefully to my cheek. I squeezed his fingers, inhaling the perfumed hair oil of Charlotte Walden, who, only hours before, had lain with him in her bed. Seanin retrieved his hand, brushing a stray hair back from my face, and saying in Irish, “There now, little Maire. What did I say about all that drink?” “Hell with it, Seanin,” I said in our father’s language. “There’ll be time to regret it all in the morning.” “Go to sleep, Sister,” he whispered, kissing my brow before heading back up the stairs, but I was already drifting off.

Editorial Reviews

“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.”