Mummy Darlings: A Glorious Guinness Girls Novel

Written by Emily Hourican
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

The second in the Glorious Guinness Girls series finds Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh greeting the new decade of the 1930s in various locations (Dublin, Northern Ireland, and London) and with various reactions to their marriages, pregnancies, and motherhood.

Seized with affection for her new son Gay, timid and obliging Oonagh is fiercely criticized for bathing him nightly, and even the artist hired to paint her portrait admonishes her to “do stop talking.” It seems her husband is not the hard-working family man she first supposes; Maureen’s husband becomes a Marquis unexpectedly, which lends some changes to their volatile marriage, including a falling-down manse with “a playroom for a bloodthirsty child”; and Aileen’s dreams of order and routine turn sour even as she lives in a well-appointed castle.

Knitting her way through all three sisters’ lives is the loyal Kathleen, their housemaid/companion since childhood, whose own expanding life is getting caught up in the political movements of the time. She staunchly stands by Oonagh’s difficult birth and travels between the sisters’ homes, carving time to experience the wider world and a romance when set free of them.

Not as bound by class rules, duties, obligations and sisterly envy, Kathleen proved the most interesting character for this reader in a novel whose rich and pungent atmosphere contrasts with largely petty and colorless lives.