Close up, everything looks flawed. Certainly, the deeper I dug into the lives of the three Guinness girls—Aileen, Maureen, and Oonagh—for my novel The Glorious Guinness Girls, and the harder I looked at the Roaring Twenties, the Guinness decade, the more pitted it all appeared.

From a distance, all I saw was the glamour. The Guinness girls were born at the beginning of the 20th century and died at the end of it. They appeared to live through history as though history were no more than a series of minor moments in the greater arc of their own lives. They were rich (Guinness money was as solid and visible as the iconic golden harp embossed on the St. James’s Gate beer factory), beautiful, giddy, and seemingly insulated from the world around them.