Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022

Kate Meyrick: Background information when reading Shrines of Gaiety

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Shrines of Gaiety

A Novel

by Kate Atkinson

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson X
Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Sep 2022, 416 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Kate Meyrick

This article relates to Shrines of Gaiety

Print Review

black-and-white photograph of Kate Meyrick In an Author's Note in her novel Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson reveals that the real-life inspiration for her character Nellie Coker was Kate Meyrick, the impresario known as the "Queen of Nightclubs." Much like Atkinson's character, "Ma" Meyrick built an empire of sorts during the Jazz Age, owning and operating a string of clubs in London (and, for a brief time, in Paris), often with the assistance of her adult children.

Meyrick, who repeatedly separated from and reunited with her husband and the father of her eight children, was inspired to open her first club in 1919, when she found herself caring for her eldest daughter, who had caught influenza at college, without much support. Opening a nightclub enabled Meyrick to have her own income, gain financial independence and provide stability (of a sort) to her large family.

The most famous of Meyrick's clubs was the "43 Club," so called for its address at 43 Gerrard Street, Soho in what is now London's Chinatown. Opened in 1921, the 43 Club attracted a distinguished guest list: Greek and Romanian royalty, British aristocrats, and the newly fashionable Hollywood set, including Rudolph Valentino, as well as writers like Evelyn Waugh and Barbara Cartland. The character Ma Mayfield and the Old Hundredth Club, appearing in Waugh's A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited, were inspired by Meyrick and the 43 Club.

The 43 Club and Meyrick's other establishments were frequent targets of police raids; although there was no outright Prohibition like in the United States at this time, the British Home Secretary still sought to crack down on liquor license violations. This meant that Meyrick's clubs were frequently shut down only to reopen under other names; and, just like Nellie Coker in the opening pages of Shrines of Gaiety, Meyrick served multiple stints in Holloway prison.

Atkinson acknowledges that although she fabricated many of the details of Nellie Coker's personality and escapades, she drew heavily from Kate Meyrick's colorful autobiography Secrets of the 43 Club, as well as Barbara Cartland's memoir We Danced All Night, which helped set the scene. Readers wanting to learn more about the fascinating historical background against which Atkinson's novel is set might wish to seek out those first-hand accounts themselves.

Kate Meyrick in the 1920s, via Wikimedia Commons

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Norah Piehl

This article relates to Shrines of Gaiety. It will run in the October 5, 2022 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Bewilderment
    by Richard Powers
    In 2019, Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for The Overstory, a sprawling novel whose characters...
  • Book Jacket: I'm the Girl
    I'm the Girl
    by Courtney Summers
    YA author Courtney Summers doesn't believe in shielding her teenage readers from the world's darkest...
  • Book Jacket: They're Going to Love You
    They're Going to Love You
    by Meg Howrey
    Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly ...
  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.
Who Said...

Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.