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Book DetailsISBN: 9780857525895
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Book Review: Transcription by Kate Atkinson - Reviewed by CloggieA (25 Oct 2018)
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.
Kate Atkinson won the Costa (formerly the Whitbread) Book of the Year prize with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Her bestselling novels include the four featuring former detective Jackson Brodie which became the BBC television series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs. Her 2013 novel Life After Life spent a record number of weeks on top of the bestsellers lists on both sides of the Atlantic, and won the South Bank Sky Arts Literature Prize and the Costa Novel Award, a prize Kate Atkinson won again in 2015 for A God in Ruins. Her new novel Transcription comes out in September 2018.
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