Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Book Review: Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atinkinson

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: September 27, 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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 gives us a window in a vanished world. Slyly funny, brilliantly observant, and ingeniously plotted, Shrines of Gaiety showcases the myriad talents that have made Atkinson one of the most lauded writers of our time."




It's post World War I London and Nellie Coker is an important person in society, clearly ahead of her time. She owns five nightclubs that attract all sorts of people including the British Royalty, criminals, mob bosses, starlets, and more.  It's where people from all walks of life can rub elbows as her nightclubs appeal to all. Coker is a mother to six children and has created an empire for herself and her children.  However, things haven't always gone swimmingly. Like many others, Nellie started off struggling and she has even spent time in jail. Once released from prison, she realizes that her enemies are trying to take her down.  There's an investigator who wants to bring her to justice and there's someone new on the scene, Gwendolen Kelling, who is mysterious and has captured her eldest son's eye. Can she be trusted? Meanwhile, there's a mystery throughout the novel surrounding two missing girls that kept me flipping the pages.  Fans of historical fiction as well as Peaky Blinders will especially enjoy this historical romp through the underbelly of London in Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson.

Nellie Coker has major Aunt Polly vibes. If you are a fan of Peaky Blinders, you know what I am talking about. I adored her even though she is tragically flawed. She is like the Kris Kardashian of London and has children working underneath her as well as an entire nightclub empire at her fingertips. Who doesn't love a strong woman in charge? Her background is also complex, as you might have guessed, and I really enjoyed being lost in Nellie's world. Also, her six children were somewhat important to the story, but I found myself drawn to Niven's story the most, who is her eldest son. He served during WWI, so he was a complex character as well.

Atkinson brings post WWI London to life so well in Shrines of Gaiety. It was very atmospheric and moody; I felt like I was there.  The nightclubs, the gangsters, the opulence of the clubs, the wealth juxtaposed by the extreme poverty was all well done. I am not sure I have read another novel that brings to life the dark side of London post WWI better than Atkinson.

Boy, can Atkinson write! I have never read her novels before, so I was completely blown away by her writing style in Shrines of Gaiety.  She is just so good at what she does. Her vocabulary, her ability to describe a scene, and develop characters is nothing less than expert. There's a lot of different points of view in this novel, but I think she handled it very well as it weaved a big web of a story. Atkinson is one of the best writers out there today.

So, are you a fan of historical fiction? Is Shrines of Gaiety on your TBR list? Fans of Peaky Blinders need to stop what they are doing and pick up a copy today! You'll thank me! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.




  1. It's been awhile since I read Kate Atkinson, but this sounds fun! The 1920s is always a great setting.

    1. Yes! The setting was my favorite part for sure. I'll definitely read Atkinson in the future. I loved her style! Thanks for visiting, Angela.


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