Transcriptionby Published 25 Sep 2018
|Publisher||Little, Brown and Company|
Transcription Ebook Description
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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 forever.
Ten years later, now a radio 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.
''In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.''
1950. Juliet is a BBC producer, responsible for the children's zone. Intelligent, energetic and a talented writer, she tries to make History interesting for the young ones. She should know, for her relationship to the Lady with the Book that chronicles the course of the human race has been extremely turbulent. If we travel back in time, in 1940 specifically, we'll see Juliet reluctantly working for the country, a spy for MI5. And now, traces of her former life have returned to show our heroine that the past is a war without an end...
Kate Atkinson leads us to one of the most eventful eras in History. The nightmare of WWII is about to break out. We join a squad created to capture members of the British aristocracy that dreams of a fascist future, siding with Hitler. Young women infiltrate their circle to prevent evil and transcriptions are used to set up a defense against a very sneaky enemy. Identities must change, facades must be created, victims are inevitable and, at times, expendable. But how can you go on with your life once this comes to an end? Juliet has made her choices in a life that allows no emotions. No friends, no loved ones. No one to trust, no name, no past. Atkinson writes in a way that is direct and ''literary'' and creates a novel that becomes so much more than a spy story. This is a novel about a young woman who tries to obey the country's call and uses her wit without abandoning her principles or her kindness.
''Still, the fog had lifted overnight and now Juliet could see the beginning of buds on the trees, and, even above the noise of London traffic, she could hear that the birds were singing their tiny hearts out, getting ready for spring. They are all feathers, she thought.''
The setting is superbly crafted. The dark atmosphere of the impending war that suffocates London, the rebirth of the 50s, the impact of the Cold War in the capital are used to great effect and the era comes alive through the pages. I loved the bookish references and the trivia of the British Theatre during the golden days of the radio plays. London becomes a character in every novel set in the metropolis and Transcription is no exception. It definitely matches the personality of our heroine. Juliet is gloomy, thoughtful and mysterious but it is the momentary instances of sunshine make her such a complex and fascinating character, surrounded by an exciting cast of espionage, journalism and British reality.
Dark, sarcastic, gloomy, compulsively readable, this novel is my introduction to Kate Atkinson's work and it is certain to find itself among my favourite reads of the year.
'''History should always have a plot, Juliet thought as she slushed and burned Morna Treadwell's deathly words. How else can you make sense of it?''
My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...
As this novel opens, it is 1981, Juliet Armstrong is 60 years old, and while she was distracted by her thoughts, she was struck by a car when she attempted to cross the street. Her story comes through in a series of jumps between 1940 and 1950 before landing back in 1981 again.
In 1940 at the tender age of 18, Juliet is recruited by MI5 to work on transcribing taped conversations between one of MI5’s agents disguised as a subversive and several informants. There are short excerpts from these transcriptions throughout the 1940 portions of the novel.
In 1950, the war is over, although the aftermath lingers. Especially in the world of MI5, where spying on whatever enemies exist continues. Juliet’s everyday life has changed, however. She is involved in the production of several radio programs for school children. However, as Juliet discovers, one is never entirely free of the spy business. Once a part of MI5, always a part of MI5. Maybe. Unless . . .
One of Juliet’s thoughts from 1981: The Russians had been their enemies and then they were their allies, and then they were enemies again. The Germans the same – the great enemy, the worst of all of them, and now they were our friends, one of the mainstays of Europe. It was all such a waste of breath. War and peace. Peace and war. It would go on forever without end.
Of the many things I have always admired about Kate Atkinson’s writing, one in particular stands out: how brilliant it is. We experience first-hand the intelligence and rapid-fire brain synapses of Juliet Armstrong right from the beginning. Although she is resigned to always being the one expected to clean up, to get the tea, and other “female tasks” like typing up the transcripts, her mind is always working at the speed of light and she both sees and knows far more than she would ever let on. And people notice.
The author’s notes at the end of this story are wonderful. Ms Atkinson describes where real situations and events from the war years are blended with the fictional story she is telling. It is virtually seamless, and if someone had said this is a true story, I wouldn’t question it for a moment.
This is an ingeniously plotted story, and I felt instant kinship with Juliet Armstrong – even at the same time that I was bowled over by her intellect. Her relationships with her fellow co-workers and those in the hierarchy above her were fascinating and had me feeling by turns loftier and humbled.
Although this is not what I would describe as a “funny book”, it was overflowing with humour and entertaining situations. I laughed out loud a few times, and I also felt sad a few times because there is also pathos here.
Kate Atkinson’s writing in this novel gave me a strong urge to immediately pick up another one of her books. Fortunately, I do have a few that I have not yet read, and I hope to read some of them in 2019. In the meantime, this finely crafted novel will have to hold me – and it definitely has the strength to do so.
I am having a really bad historical fiction year (looking at you Washington Black). So I was absolutely convinced that dropping all my reading commitments to immediately pick up Kate Atkinson's new WWII spy novel would help raise my spirits. Her previous books Life after Life and A God in Ruins are favourites of mine. I trust her to a deliver a distinct kind of uber- British novel, complete with her rather sardonic humour and droll observations.
All of these Atkinson-isms are here, at least in part, but the final result is, I am deeply sad to report, a bit of a mess.
I am sure Atkinson knows wit is one of her trade marks but she totally over does it here, it loses it's charm. This starts out a very promising espionage novel that ends as farce. I don't recall her other novels being so peppered with asides in parenthesis not to mention the Greek chorus like repetition of text from earlier in the story. This technique not only drove me entirely batty it also succeeded in ousting me out of the story at key moments.
An impressive amount of research has gone into this book, particularly the role of MI5 in monitoring Nazi sympathisers ( The Fifth Column) during WWII. I feel like the source material is rife with intrigue and danger but somehow that is not carried over into this story. Many times I considered that I might have been better served by reading a non-fiction account of this era. The sense of the war, the political machinations of MI5 and the various elements of seditious activity became quite lost in this rather curiously light-hearted plot. Was Atkinson trying to show that spy craft was relentlessly dull and often pointless ?. That all MI5 men are essentially interchangeable types and that it is impossible to tell who is spying on who and why ?. If so then this was a success.
It hurts me to review this so unfavourably and other fans of Atkinson should not be disheartened as it is entirely possible that I was still suffering a Warlight hangover. The two books share some overlap in a setting of post-war London and espionage as a critical driver however in all other respects they could not be more stylistically opposed.
A slight blemish then on my otherwise complete adoration of this author. I now need to go back and reread Life after Life to remind myself how good Atkinson can be.
2 oh my disappointing stars.
I do like Atkinson's novels so when this one popped up, I was anxious to begin turning pages. Unfortunately the anticipation for this novel went south as I become bogged down in a uneven plot, and the flipping of time elements. This is a book I should have loved. It had everything, World War 2, a strong intelligent woman, espionage, London, all the things that make for a poignant novel. So, what went wrong?
For me, I just could not connect with any of the characters. They were choppy figures that seemed to drift about as I wondered exactly why they did what they did. There really didn't seem to be much of a plot and though I am sure Ms Atkinson did her due diligence on the topic, it just fell ever so flat. It was hard for me to maintain attention and though I did skim a bit, and found myself adverse to continuing at times wishing and hoping it would get better.
So, for me this novel just didn't come together. I am hoping Ms Atkinson does continue to write for she does it so well.
Thank you to my local library for a copy of this book.
“May I tempt you?” This question is the impetus which shifts a very young woman from a job merely transcribing traitorous conversations deliberately overheard during WWII in London into a bonafide spy. Working at the BBC ten years, later her misdeeds of the past come back to haunt her. For a novel about espionage, I found the characters to be rather dull and the plot lacking in tension.