Within an upper-class or aristocratic household, the relationship between a member of the family and their valet or lady’s maid is a unique one. Though they are employer and employee, there is an emotional and physical bond that has the potential to go beyond the traditional bounds of the relationship.
The Parting Glass, by Gina Marie Guadagnino, was published in 2019. In the 1830s, in New York City, Mary Ballard’s job is that of lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, one of the most sought-after young women in society. But Mary is not who she says she is. Her real name is Maire O’Farren. Maire is an Irish immigrant who was forced to leave her homeland after being caught in a compromising position. On her nights off, she frequents the unseemly parts of the city, where she gets involved with a prostitute and drinks with friends who are part of an underground society.
Maire/Mary is caught in a bind. She is in love with her mistress, who is having an affair with Maire/Mary’s brother. When the shit hits the fan, she has a choice to make, which has the potential to result in heartbreak.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I love the concept of the narrative, blending a traditional historical novel with an LGBTQ protagonist and the reality of what it was to be an Irish immigrant during that time period. Though the middle of the story lags at moments, the ending is fantastic, and the details are nothing short of perfection.
Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.