Transcription 2

A Novel

by Kate Atkinson

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 17/09/2018

4/5 Rating 2 Reviews
RRP  $32.99 $26.35

The magnificent new novel by the bestselling and award-winning Kate Atkinson, a major publishing event.

‘Think of it as an adventure, Perry had said right at the beginning of all this.And it had seemed like one. A bit of a lark, she had thought. A Girls’ Own adventure.’

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of this country’s most exceptional writers.

“ Praise for Kate Atkinson: Inexhaustibly ingenious ” Hilary Mantel

Contemporary fiction
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Transworld Publishers Limited
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her four bestselling novels featuring former detective Jackson Brodie became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs.

Her 2013 novel Life After Life won the South Bank Sky Arts Literature Prize, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize, voted Book of the Year for the independent booksellers associations on both sides of the Atlantic. It also won the Costa Novel Award, as did her new novel A God in Ruins (2015).

She was appointed MBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, and was voted Waterstones UK Author of the Year at the 2013 Specsavers National Book Awards.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Atkinson at her best

    by on

    Hitler was collecting countries like stamps. How long before he had the full set?

    This is a snapshot of history inspired by a series of transcripts the author discovered.

    In fact there is one line in the book uttered by Juliet which sums up this novel for me : “History should always have a plot …. How else could you make sense of it?”

    For Juliet is recruited into the world of spies and intrigue with MI5 and her job is to transcribe meetings between an agent working under cover as a Fifth Columnist and the various fascist agents he comes into contact with. This is a fascinating part of history and one I’d not really heard that much about. Entering this world and seeing it through the eyes of the various players was a treat and you can feel the research and author interest oozing off the page. Never does it get in the way of the story though – that’s Atkinson’s trademark after all – top class research, complex issues and an easy to read treat of a novel.

    What made this novel for me was the humour – wry and caustic at times –

    “‘Hypocaustum from the Ancient Greek – hypo meaning beneath and caust burnt. Which word do you think we get from that?’ ‘I have no idea,’ she said, caustically.”

    Linguists will love this – word play, editorial jokes and those war time transcripts which fuel the behind the scenes of wartime. I’ve transcribed many meeting notes myself as a translator but never quite as interesting as these. To have them dotted throughout the novel, in a different font and set out as if they were inserts in a history book, is also something history buffs in particular will appreciate.

    It all works really really well even if I did think Juliet seemed very naive for working in the foreign office and for …well life in general at times. There wasn‘t quite enough novel to go round either – so much complexity there, research, war time intrigue but I felt the novel was too short and I was left feeling there should have been more. It was fourth gear rather than fifth.

    Kindle or e-readers should perhaps be prepared to take a few notes as the timeline does move around and flip back and forth quite a bit and with the transcripts too, it might be tricky to keep track of some threads. Don’t be tempted to read the author note beforehand though as that’s a story in itself!

    There’s so much scope in this world and I hope Kate Atkinson returns to it.

  • Another Atkinson masterpiece.

    by on

    Transcription is the fourth stand-alone novel by award-winning British author, Kate Atkinson. In 1940, eighteen-year-old Juliet Armstrong finds herself recruited into the Secret Service. Mostly it’s fairly boring, typing up reports and transcribing recordings of agents meeting with British Nazi-sympathisers. But then she’s given another identity and the work gets more interesting, for a while. After one exciting episode, arrests are made.

    But there were some incidents about which Juliet doesn’t like to think too much, and when the war ends, she’s not sorry to leave it all behind. Five years later, Juliet is working for the BBC producing children’s programs when a face from the past appears: the man who posed as the Gestapo contact passes her in the street. What is disconcerting is that he pretends not to know her.

    On the heels of this, a somewhat threatening note is delivered, more of her former colleagues from MI5 flit in and out, and she feels sure she is being followed. Frustrated for information from official channels, Juliet decides to become the hunter rather than the prey.

    Once again, Atkinson gives the reader a plot that is perfectly plausible, but filled with twists and red herrings. Her depiction of London during the war and in the immediate aftermath has an authentic feel, with the social attitudes portrayed appropriate for the era. Her protagonist is easily believable: Juliet is intelligent but still naïve, although perhaps not quite as innocent as she first seems.

    Her descriptive prose is excellent, as always, and Atkinson no doubt delighted in dropping this piece of dialogue in the final pages: “Fisher clapped his hands, as if to signal the end of the entertainment and said, ‘Come now, quite enough of exposition and explanation. We’re not approaching the end of a novel, Miss Armstrong.’” Another Atkinson masterpiece.