Published in 2016
About the book
In an exclusive all girls' secondary school, they become friends. They choose the same university, and through smoke-filled nights, lectures, sexual encounters and first loves, their bond deepens: a friendship which seems like it will last for evermore.
But then, at an end-of-year party, something happens which changes everything...
Afterwards, they drift apart. Now, Stella, a lawyer in New York, lives for her work; Laura, a struggling journalist in Dublin, is still waiting for the scoop to kick-start her career; while Amanda, broken and beautiful, lives a life of slow decay in London.
Then the phonecall comes which brings them back together, to the friendship they swore would never end, and the night when it all went wrong.
"Beautifully constructed and elegantly told"
- Liz Loves Books (Read the full review here)
“A cross between Jilly Cooper and Jane Austen...”
- The Sunday Independent (Read the full interview with Emily here)
“It's so good, I couldn't put it down”
- Louise O’Neill
"Hourican has managed to breathe new life ... with a new atmospheric tone; one that registers close to that of Maggie O'Farrell or Louise O'Neill... As with most great writing, The Privileged packs plenty of truth and social commentary beneath its story"
- The Irish Independent (Read the full review here)
"The Privileged is a character-driven drama in the vein of Maeve Binchy, a Circle of Friends for the 21st century"
- The Irish Times (Read the full review here)
"It is ultimately a story of survival and redemption - but not without the learning that only experience can deliver"
- The Sunday Independent (Read the full review here)
"You won't be able to put it down"
- Stella Magazine
Stella’s mobile rang at the same time as the white button on the phone in front of her began to flash. Everything was always urgent, a world of people striving, driving hard. She stared at the button, gathering her thoughts for the seven-way conference call.
‘Hello.’ She answered her mobile by instinct, conditioned by the 353 area code to respond. Whoever it was, and only those closest to her had that number, she’d tell them to call back. The white button was still flashing.
‘Stel, it’s Amanda. Something bad.’
Laura, God bless her, so sweet and hesitant about herself, got straight to the point where everyone else was concerned. Her years of training as a journalist meant that she didn’t waste time on the unimportant.
‘What now?’ Stella tried, failed, to keep the weary note from her voice that made her sound so much older than twenty-eight. With Amanda, it was always something. Usually something big, dramatic.Noisy. Sometimes she felt as if she and Laura had been picking up the pieces for years. For ever. When had she and Laura last talked for any length without Amanda hijacking the focus of their conversation? As if, even now, fifteen years on, they were still in the shadow of her considerable glamour?
And if Amanda was with them, it was always all about her. A room with Amanda in it felt like a room with a vortex into which everything, eventually, would fall. Still, it must be pretty bad or Laura wouldn’t ring so early. Stella checked her diamond-studded Tag Heuer, a gift from Sean – barely eight am.
‘There’s a story in one of the papers. No names. It’s one of those “guess which former society beauty has been spotted” but it’s obviously her. Apparently she and Huw have locked themselves into the house in Knightsbridge. Boarded up the front door and shut off all the downstairs rooms. They’re living on the top floor. Barnes and his wife have been turned out. No one is allowed in except that rat Jake. I don’t think anyone else much tries any more. Barnes went to Huw’s family to get help, and someone’s leaked it to the papers. They aren’t eating or sleeping or talking to anyone. The place is filthy ‒ they’re filthy too. Seems it’s been going on for months. It’s really bad this time.’
Amanda filthy? Amanda, with her effortlessly shiny hair, golden skin and natural elegance, with her faint aloofness, sharp wit and deep laugh. Amanda O’Hagen, social queen from the age of thirteen, locked into the wedding-cake-white four-storey Knightsbridge house, where she and Huw had lived in the five years since they’d got married, seeing no one? Stella had been to the house just once, right before the wedding. It had been an interior designer’s dream, the kind of thing that got full-colour photographs in glossy magazines for the rest of the world to drool over, with its impeccable grey interior walls, original stuccoed ceilings, and fireplaces big enough to stand in. There was a Picasso sketch or two, a Bacon in the dining room, a small Turner onto which the light from the first-floor windows fell at evening, making it glow with a golden fire all its own. Amanda had told Stella how much she loved that painting, joking that she would have married Huw for it, even if he hadn’t been the handsomest man on earth. What must the house look like now? Stella wondered. How filthy was filthy? And why was it anything, now, to do with her?
‘So what’s different?’ Again, that weary note.
‘They packed Dora off a few months ago, back to Mrs O’Hagen.’
‘Right.’ Stella, lawyer now before friend, considered the implications. ‘And if Amanda is sending Dora back to her mother, that can’t be good.’
‘Not good at all, I’d say, when you think how long she spent keeping the two of them apart. Apparently Dora thinks she’s on holiday. She’s due to go home in a couple of weeks, but Mrs O’Hagen’s been talking about trying to get her into St Assumpta’s, so she can keep an eye on her.’
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake, Laura. Isn’t that where this whole mess started? Mrs O’Hagen and St Assumpta’s?’ Stella found she was shaking, her breath coming unevenly.
‘If they must go giving boys blow-jobs, at least this way we know they’re St Augustin’s boys …’ Laura drawled.
It had been their catchphrase for years, ever since Amanda had heard her mother say it to her father, while Amanda was getting ready to go to Dargle’s, the rugby-club disco, where all the boys and girls from smart Southside schools went on a Friday night. Amanda had been fourteen. Now, it no longer seemed funny, even though the three of them had screamed with laughter over it for years. It had been the one thing guaranteed to break the ice between them when they met up after a separation, with increasingly little in common.
‘Laura, I’d better go. I’ll call you back, right?’ The little white light was still flashing. Her assistant had put her head round the door twice already, looking slightly panicked the second time. Stella reached out to push the button that would bring up a huge digital split-screen showing the seven participants in the conference call. Two were down the corridor, in their own huge twenty-seventh-floor offices, but the rest were in Tokyo, including Sean. Beautiful Sean, with his strawberry-blond hair, his white-white teeth and the one drop of west-of-Ireland blood from which he had forged a complete identity. A man in the mould of John F. Kennedy, Stella thought, now seven thousand miles away from her. Also seven thousand miles away from his two perfect children and blonde WASP wife.
The white light was still flashing. They were all waiting for Stella, who had – as always – every possible fact relating to the case neatly categorized in her mind. She had read the depositions and documents with such meticulous attention that even the Japanese clients were impressed. She had a talent for hard work and fact-retention, which meant she was being fast-tracked through one of New York’s oldest, most established legal firms. Push the button, Stella, she thought. Deal with Amanda later. But she hesitated. Mrs O’Hagen and St Assumpta’s. Where it had all started. Amanda, at fourteen, the most beautiful girl she’d ever seen.