Get Lost In This Book: ‘Shrines of Gaiety,’ by Kate Atkinson

Alison Kilian
2 min readMay 21, 2023

On Kate Atkinson, AI, and the rare gift of forgetting the real world in a great book.

Photo by Christina Morillo:

When the world feels overwhelming (which it often does these days), the ability to lose yourself in a creative work — be it a movie, book, video game, whatever — is a true pleasure. I just finished a book that stole my whole weekend, in the best way possible: Kate Atkinson’s “Shrines of Gaiety.”

What a gem.

Atkinson’s characters range from amusing to horrifying and everything in between. The setting she explores, post-WWI London, is full of grit and glamor at the same time. And the way she plots her book… As a writer myself, I have to confess, I’m jealous. Every strand of her complex plot is woven together perfectly. She epitomizes the principle of Checkov’s gun (“If in the first act you introduce a gun, by the third act you have to use it”). There is a rhyme and reason to every tiny detail she includes in the book. I can only imagine how much painstaking work Atkinson puts into plotting her work.

Also, if you’re an avid reader, especially of the classics, Atkinson’s book proves great fun thanks to the literary allusions. From Shakespeare to the Bible, the book and the characters are constantly referencing works of all kinds — leaving you chasing one easter egg after the next.

It’s been awhile since I really sunk into a read like this one, and it’s a reminder of what a really great writer can accomplish. In a world where the writing profession seems to be under threat, at risk of being taken over by AI tools, I am grateful to read a book like this one — written with such heart, intricate attention to detail, and clever playfulness. Atkinson is an example of one writer that, I hope, no robot can ever replace.

Thank you for reading! This is a space where I share personal thoughts — an opportunity for self-expression that has nothing to do with my professional writing. None of the thoughts or opinions expressed in this blog should be construed as anything but my own, nor should they be affiliated with any company or person I contract with or write for.

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Alison Kilian

I’m Alison & I tell stories! ​I’ve been writing professionally for 10+ years, crafting everything from CEO blogs to bestselling romcoms. I ❤ a good story!