Friday, 13 September 2019

Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Release Date: 25th September 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown & Compny
Genres:  Historical Fiction, Spy, Intrigue

During WWII, Juliet Armstrong was conscripted into service as a young woman, transcribing conversations between an MI5 agent and a ring of suspected German sympathizers. Years later, in 1950 post-war London, Julie can't escape the repercussions of her work for the government, and is pulled back into the life of espionage she thought she'd left behind.

Kate Atkinson's latest novel brings mid-century London to life in a gripping tale of deception and consequences.

I read this book as part of the Open House Festival held in my good old home town of Bangor, Northern Ireland. The book featured in one of the Book Club panels as part of the festival and I was lucky enough to be a panel member once again. Transcription was the book I had to review and discuss at the panel and it was met with some interesting views from those attending the event. There was a real mixture of comments from readers about whether they enjoyed the book or not and its safe to say the room was divided.
The book opens with Juliet Armstrong, who works for the BBC being caught up in a terrible accident, looking back on her life as a young woman and the book transports the reader back to post war Britain, letting us become caught up in Juliet's own drama and sharing her experiences of not only her past but her present also.
At 17 years old, Juliet is all alone in the world after her mother's death. She is still a fairly young woman and needs to find her place in the world and unusually Juliet somehow finds herself working for M15, firstly as a typist transcribing conversations during a covert operation and then finding herself actually part of that operation, and lives depending on her. Her own life becomes so much more complicated and the new identity she must assume for the operation becomes every bit as real as her own true identity. The two become quite blurred into one and quite often its unclear who the real Juliet is. Her cool and calm nature are at odds with the fraility she portrays at times and her common sense approach is often counterbalanced by the absurdity of some of the situations she finds herself in.
The book later returns to Juliet's 'present' life and the fact that no matter how hard she tried, Juliet never truly escaped from her other life. It came to meet her full circle again.

I read this book expecting it to be more of a thriller. It wasn't. Yes there were some very tense situations and the writing was superb but this book was more of a slow burner, and very character driven which I do enjoy. There were lots of interesting characters that almost became Juliet's new family and fed into her new persona. Throughout the book there were as well as some serious scenes, some quite funny ones too, often breaking the tension felt throughout. Espionage is after all a serious business and I was intrigued by the amount of research required for such a novel. Kate Atkinson discusses this at the end of the book.

Transcription for me is a Marmite book. You will either love it or hate it. There's no in-between. It was interesting with a great plot but it definitely wasn't one to get your pulse rating. It's a bit like that first kiss you're looking forward to only to find it was completely not what you were expecting! A good book nonetheless and well written as one would expect from Kate Atkinson but not one of my absolute favourites unfortunately but I needed to know how the pink flamingo on the cover tied in with the story. And, you'll have to read the book too if you want to know!

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