Shrines of Gaiety

by Kate Atkinson

Monday, January 1, 2024

Cover of the book, Shrine of Gaiety

Can I start the year off with a five star book? There are a couple of things here that could have knocked points off for me but I think I’d be being a little too perfectionist if I actually docked them. This book was solid enjoyment from cover to cover.

One thing, it’s not as wild and fabulous a ride as something like Life After Life, but if I mark this book down for not being that then I think I’m unfairly comparing Atkinson to her own very best, and pretty much no one else could stand up to that comparison either. Another thing, I thought the ending was a bit hasty but I think that was probably more down to how I would have like the story to go on forever. And I can’t really mark a book down for having an ending, in fact I usually get annoyed at books that drag themselves out and don’t know how to end.

This is a story of the world of London nightclubs in 1926, there are many characters - Nellie Coker is the matriarch of the club world, her two sons feature heavily; Detective Chief Inspector Frobisher is the man trying to clean up the criminal underworld in which the Coker nightclubs are a lynchpin. Then there’s Gwendolen Kelling, a librarian from York who comes to London searching for a pair of runaway teenage girls, and those teenage girls themselves. The narrative switches viewpoints regularly. It’s a great cast on a vivid stage. The story has its roots in a true story but Atkinson’s imagination runs wild with rich details.

Thoroughly recommended. I need to get round to reading the Jackson Brodie books at some point… OK, in my memory I’ve only read the first one Case Histories and didn’t think it was as good as her other books. But this is why I write things down! I’ve also read the second and the third and thought they were all great! My memory of what I read fifteen years ago cannot be trusted. So having got to the bottom of that, that’s an easy three more good books to read sometime soon I hope!