Review 1355: Transcription

Cover for TranscriptionBest of Ten!
Things are not always what they seem in Transcription, Kate Atkinson’s latest novel, but it isn’t until the last pages of the book that you understand what’s going on. For this novel, Atkinson returns to the time period that was so fruitful for her last two, World War II.

Juliet Armstrong hearkens back to 1940, when she becomes, at 18, a transcriptionist for a team in MI5 that is bugging the meetings of Fascist sympathizers acting as fifth columnists. She is at once extremely naive yet clever and prone to lying. She has a crush on her handsome boss, Perry Gibbons, and does not understand that he is using her as a beard. The team’s work centers on Godfrey Toby, who has infiltrated a group of Nazi sympathizers.

In 1950, Juliet is working for BBC radio on a children’s show, but she occasionally harbors refugees from Communist Europe for her old bosses. One day, she spots Mr. Toby in the park, and he pretends not to know her. Later, she receives a note that says, “You will pay for what you did.” She fears that her life during the war is catching up with her.

Transcription seems much more straightforward than Atkinson’s last two books, but Atkinson always has something up her sleeve. The last few pages turn the novel on its head, but getting there is a pleasure. Atkinson finds some sly humor in the mundanity and ineptness of the spying operation and entertains us with Juliet’s amusing turn of thought and exactness of expression. I loved this book.

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13 thoughts on “Review 1355: Transcription

  1. buriedinprint May 27, 2019 / 1:35 pm

    I’m looking forward to this one as well!

    • whatmeread May 27, 2019 / 3:50 pm

      I seldom give anything 5 stars in Goodreads, but I did this one.

      • buriedinprint May 27, 2019 / 5:11 pm

        Oooo, lovely!

  2. Naomi May 28, 2019 / 12:03 pm

    I received this book as a gift, so I’m very glad to hear that you loved it so much!

  3. Helen May 28, 2019 / 1:47 pm

    I’ve read some very positive reviews of this book and some very negative ones. I do usually love Kate Atkinson and this one sounds interesting, so I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing what I think.

    • whatmeread May 28, 2019 / 3:28 pm

      If you know what Atkinson is like, I think you’ll like it. I think some people have trouble with her approach. I loved Life After Life, but I had a friend who couldn’t stand it beginning over and over again.

  4. Ruthiella May 28, 2019 / 4:00 pm

    I love Kate Atkinson and I loved this book too. In some ways it could have been yet another iteration of Ursula’s life from Life After Life. I thought the “reveal” wasn’t all that startling really. Well, I guess I just accepted it.

  5. Jane May 30, 2019 / 11:35 am

    I haven’t read this yet but sounds like I’m in for a treat, I’ve loved her other books!

  6. Davida Chazan May 31, 2019 / 11:30 am

    I really should read something by her… Thanks!

    • whatmeread May 31, 2019 / 11:42 am

      Yes, particularly her later books are really worth it. I like most of them, though. She also wrote a few Jackson Brodie mysteries.

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