Friday 14 October 2022

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson (2022)


The #1 national bestselling, award-winning author of Life after Life transports us to the dazzling London of the Roaring Twenties in a whirlwind tale of corruption, seduction, and debts that have come due.

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.

Shrines of Gaiety is a slow-burn novel with a large cast of characters. It took me a little bit of time to get my bearings with it but once the main characters were established I found the book, for the main part, to be very readable and quite enjoyable. 
Kate Atkinson's writing is embellished with lively descriptions of London in the 1920s and I really felt like I was experiencing that time and the places described. 
With the narrative jumping between different character's points of view, I found that I liked some of them more than others. I was most interested in Freda, Gwendolen, Frobisher and Niven. Nellie as the owner of the night clubs should have been a very interesting character but I found that the most entertaining about her was the ghost of Maud who was haunting her conscience. 
For a slow-burn novel I found the ending disappointingly rushed and I didn't like the way things ended for some of the characters. I didn't feel it necessary to map out the rest of their lives for the reader and it left a sour note for knowing what was to come.
So, overall a mixed bag for me- I loved the setting, the descriptions, the dialogue and the humour but, was left disappointed with the ending.

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