Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Transcription is historical fiction with three distinct settings. It is about a young women recruited by the secret service into the world of espionage. Juliet is primarily employed to type up voice recordings from meetings held by British Fascists during the second world war. But later, she is assigned to infiltrate The Right Club, a small group of anti-Semitic fascist sympathisers. All the action is seen through Juliet’s eyes, which are at times cynical but at others, quite innocent. Yet all through the book I was absorbed by the depth to the characters and the setting.
After the war, Juliet finds employment with the BBC and the second part of the story is set in 1950 where she is a producer of radio programmes for schools. She encounters one or two people from the war years, and her life appears to be recovering from her war-time experiences, but unexpectedly she receives a threating letter. Now, too many faces from her past return, leaving Juliet questioning which of them is a spy. Is it all just a coincidence? And, will Juliet ever be able to leave it all behind?
This story is about Juliet and how she negotiates the complexities of spies whilst returning to the mundane work of typing. It’s comical, mystical, dark at times, whilst also exposing the raw side of a country at war and the human nature of its people.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I was immediately absorbed by the writing style and equally hooked by the artistry of that writing. I particularly liked the author’s notes at the back, as they explain the basis for the storyline and were fascinating to read. You can tell the depth of research and understanding which went into this book. It all feels so real and I must remind myself that it is fiction. Recommended for those who enjoy the twists of espionage, but who are looking for something different from the genre.
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Transcription is a bravura novel of extraordinary power and substance. Juliet Armstrong is recruited as a young woman by an obscure wartime department of the Secret Service. In the aftermath of war she joins the BBC, where her life begins to unravel, and she finally has to come to terms with the consequences.
Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.
She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.
Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.
When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.
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