Gina Marie Guadagnino.
Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
Gina Marie Guadagnino’s debut novel “The Parting Glass” has been described as “‘Downton Abbey’ meets ‘Gangs of New York,’” which the writer herself told us is a “fairly accurate overview.”
So who could resist it? Well, the new novelist’s admirers say you shouldn’t.
“Darkly compelling,” said fellow writer Kate Quinn. “A gem of a novel to be inhaled in one gulp.”
Lyndsay Faye, the author of “Jane Steele” and other novels, said that it’s “knotted thickly with secrets both fervid and calculating.
“Immaculately researched and gorgeously written,” Faye added, describing it as a “thoughtful, lyrical, sensuous, moving tour-de-force.”
Indeed, Guadagnino, who has family roots in both Calabria and Leinster, revealed in an essay in the Echo two weeks ago that she spent five years doing historical research for the novel.
She certainly had the academic training to undertake such an endeavor: “I did my BA at NYU in English with a double minor in Irish Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I got my MFA in Creative Writing from the New School, and I am currently working on my MA in Irish Studies at NYU.”
As for the book, Guadagnino said, it follows, “Maire O’Farren and her brother Seanin who have come to New York from Donegal in the 1830s. Maire can hide her accent, and uses this skill to get a job as a lady’s maid to a debutant named Charlotte Walden; Seanin gets a job overseeing the Walden’s stables.
“Things get complicated when both Maire and Seanin fall in love with Charlotte; Seanin turns to a secret society to get ahead when Charlotte reciprocates his affections,” the novelist added. “Maire, meanwhile, seeks solace at the bottom of the bottle, and in the arms of Liddie Lawrence, a London-born prostitute. When the characters’ secret lives begin to violently unravel, Maire must choose between loyalty and respectability.”
Marie Gina Guadagnino
Date of birth: February, 1982
Place of birth: Long Island, New York
Residence: Washington Heights, New York
Published works: “The Parting Glass.” Short stories appear in “The Morris-Jumel Anthology of Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction,” “Mixed-up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader),” and “Welcome to Miskatonic University.” Short essay in “Being New York, Being Irish.”
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I can’t seem to sit down to write at home unless the dishes are done and the laundry is put away, so I prefer to write in libraries. I try to make and stick to an outline, having done all my research in advance, of course. When I’m in drafting or editing mode, I devote, at minimum, an hour or a thousand words daily - whichever comes second.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Find people who are willing to read your work and give you the hard criticism you need to improve - and then listen to them! Be patient in your revisions. You want to make sure that your work is as polished and perfect as possible before you send it out into the world.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
I could reread Paul Beatty’s “Slumberland” endlessly and never tire of it. Beatty is a such a lyrical writer, and “Slumberland” is a unique and compelling story. Helene Wecker’s “The Golem and the Jini" combines the 19th-century New York immigrant story with mythological creatures – two of my favorite things – into a tale that brought me to tears. Then I’d have to say “Fingersmith,” by Sarah Waters. It’s got an unusual narrative structure, and puzzlebox plot that kept me guessing until the end.
What book are you currently reading?
I just picked up “The Donegal Woman” by John Throne: a novel based on the life of his grandmother. It was on the local interest shelf at Four Masters Bookshop in Donegal Town and I had to have it.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Jo Barker’s “Longbourn" comes to mind. It’s “Pride and Prejudice” told from the point of view of the servants - very much my milieu. In a market crammed full of Jane Austen spinoffs and fanfiction, Barker has crafted a work of genuine literature.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” actually! I was expecting horror and cheap thrills, and was delighted with a thoughtfully constructed epistolary novel.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Is it too cliché to say William Shakespeare? I have so many questions for him …
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
The Donegal coastline. I was just at Malin Beg recently, and there’s something about the stark rising of the promentaries above the crash of the Atlantic that is just breathtaking. The ocean is a Caribbean blue, and there are waterfalls running down the south arm of the little inlet. It’s almost too picturesque to be real.