Tuesday 18 October 2022

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson BLOG TOUR #ShrinesOf Gaiety #KateAtkinson @DoubledayUK @RandomTTours #BookReview

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.

At the heart of this glittering world is notorious 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.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson was published in hardback on 27 September 2022 by Doubleday. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

Shrines of Gaiety is a sweeping historical novel, shining a spotlight on London in the 1920s. With a vast cast of characters, from the beautiful and glamorous, to the corrupt and wicked, it's a story that will engross the reader as they are swept through the dirty London streets and into the sordid clubs of Soho. 

Based on the life of Kate Meyrick, the most well known hostess of the Soho clubs, Atkinson gives us a fabulously colourful lead character in Nellie Coker. At the beginning of the novel, Nellie is just released from Holloway jail after being imprisoned for breaking licensing laws. Her release has drawn quite a crowd of people, from the rich patrons of the clubs, to the nosey young street boys and of course, member of the authorities who will do their best to ensure that Nellie is watched. 

This is not just Nellie's story though. The reader also becomes intimately acquainted with Yorkshire librarian Gwendolen Kelling, police officer John Frobisher and two runaways; Freda and Florence. Each one of these characters are beautifully formed, each one of them relating their own experiences of the London streets and each one of them determined to make their way in life. 

Atkinson gets to the heart of the underworld of Soho. Her descriptions of the clubs, and of the workings of the Coker family are immaculate, and I was especially fond of odd-ball Frobisher and his inner most thoughts about his own life, his marital relationship and his longing for the countryside of his childhood. 

It's a long novel, with long chapters and can be a little meandering in places, it's certainly a visual story, with the capital city itself becoming the lead character, but is eloquently written, with a fluidity that draws the reader along so well. 

Rich and intriguing with some brilliant characters. 

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.

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