Published: September 27th, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
I’m thrilled to be opening the blog tour for this spectacular novel. A huge thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Doubleday books for the gifted ARC.
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.
“There was a reckoning coming for Nellie. Could she outrun it?”
Shrines of Gaiety is a fictional insight into the seedy underbelly hiding beneath the glittering nightlife of 1920s London. It follows Nellie Coker, the scene’s undisputed queen, who has built an empire for herself and her children. At her clubs aristocrats, royals, stars and foreighn dignitaries mingle with gangsters and pay a shilling at a time to dance with girls. But success comes at a price and Nellie’s enemies are now plotting her downfall and she must fight to keep what she built. Can Nellie triumph once again or will her enemies finally succeed?
What. A. Book. Mesmerising and exuberant, it is not only a work of art on the outside but between its pages too. But this is a book where the beauty lives alongside the darkness. For behind the dancing, drinking, respectability, sparkle and splendour is a cesspit of morality; an intricate and tangled web of deception, lies, debauchery, drugs, murder and sex trafficing. A gritty and menacing underworld that is actually behind the glittering nightlife patrons enjoy.
“The delinquent Coker empire was a house of cards that Frobisher aimed to topple. The filthy, glittering underbelly of London was converged in its nightclubs, and particularly the Amethyst, the gaudy jewel at the heart of Soho’s nightlife.”
An example of historical fiction at its finest, Kate Atkinson has once again shown why she is a must-read for any fan of the genre. A masterclass in storytelling, this exquisitely crafted novel had me transfixed as the roaring twenties, glamorous nightlife and seedy underworld were brought to life in vivid technicolour. It was impossible to put down and I devoured in just two sittings as Nellie’s world consumed me and the real world surrounding me fell away.
Nellie Coker is an ambitious, strong, powerful, ruthless and notorious character who demands loyalty and is fiercely protective of her family and what she’s built. She is someone you can’t help having a soft spot for despite the fact that she is actually quite unlikeable. She has that spark that draws you to her and makes you want to be in her orbit even if you know she’s someone you should stay away from. It was easy to see why she was so successful.
“Girls like Freda are meant for the Nellie Coker’s of this world. She devours them.”
But Nellie is not our only narrator and this is a saga told by an ensemble cast of richly drawn and charismatic characters such as Nellie’s six children, spiky Chief Inspector John Frobisher, former librarian Gwendolen Kelling and young Freda Murgatroyd. Gwendolen was my favourite character while Freda brought out my maternal side as I worried about the vulnerable young runaway falling victim to the nefarious people waiting to pounce on naive young girls. There was also an array of compelling background characters that were equally as well written.
Dazzling, evocative and consuming, this glorious romp is one of my favourite books this year. If you enjoy historical fiction then this is an absolute must-read. Highly recommended.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Kate Atkinson is an international bestselling novelist, as well as playwright and short story writer. She is the author of Life After Life; Transcription; Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a Whitbread Book of the Year winner; the story collection Not the End of the World; and five novels in the Jackson Brodie crime series, which was adapted into the BBC TV show Case Histories.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx
Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
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