27 September 2022
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book
and to Random Things tours for the invitation to the blog tour
1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.
The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie's empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho's gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.
With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.
📖 My review..
Any new standalone novel from Kate Atkinson, this is the fifth, is always eagerly anticipated so it was with great excitement that I settled down to read Shrines of Gaiety which is set in London in 1926 when the country was just about coming out of the deprivation of the Great War. However, with so many young men lost in the trenches of northern Europe, there is still the burden of loss. To compensate, Nellie Coker, doyenne of the burgeoning London nightclub scene rules her domain with an iron fist and even though she has a large family, their hapless antics leave much to be desired.
With success comes power but also the ability to ruffle feathers and make enemies and Nellie is good at both but when the enemies start encroaching on her personal world, well, things start to heat up. Into the mix comes Gwendolen Kelling, a librarian, from the North of England who is searching for two young runaways who have come to London in search of their fortune. However, with the lure bright lights and the promise of a city paved with gold, Gwendolen has a difficult job in tracking down the young women for whom she so desperately searches.
The story glides through the city of London and is as bright and shining as the jewels for which Ma Coker names her nightclubs. From the glitz of the Savoy, to a desolate boarding house for distressed females, and from the inside of a Bow Street police station, to the casting couches of theatre land, the story bounces along introducing a wonderful array of characters who are at times as devious as a basket of snakes. Without doubt this is Kate Atkinson writing at her absolute best as London in the late 1920s comes beautifully to life, with its shady corners and riotous nightlife and with 'Ma' Coker in charge there is never a dull moment but what really shines through is the attention to all the quirky little details which make the story such an entertaining read.
Shrines of Gaiety is bright and witty, sharp and downright evil, and would, given the right direction make an absolutely wonderful TV drama. Think Charles Dickens, crossed with Peaky Blinders. I loved it.
Best read with.. a glass, or two, of crisp, dry Vouvray
About the Author
Kate Atkinson is one of the world's foremost novelists. She won the Costa Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her three critically lauded and prize-winning novels set around the Second World War are Life After Life, an acclaimed 2022 BBC TV series starring Thomasin McKenzie, A God in Ruins (both winners of the Costa Novel Award) and Transcription.
Her bestselling literary crime novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie, Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog, became a BBC television series starring Jason Isaacs. Jackson Brodie later returned in the novel Big Sky. Kate Atkinson was awarded an MBE in 2011 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Twitter #KateAtkinson #ShrinesofGaiety