Summary and book reviews of Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Transcription

by Kate Atkinson

Transcription by Kate Atkinson X
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2018, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 30, 2019, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Book Summary

A dramatic story of WWII espionage, betrayal, and loyalty, by the #1 bestselling author of Life After Life.

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.

Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of the best writers of our time.

The Children's Hour

'Miss Armstrong? Miss Armstrong, can you hear me?'

She could although she didn't seem able to respond. She was badly damaged. Broken. She had been hit by a car. It might have been her own fault, she had been distracted - she had lived for so long abroad that she had probably looked the wrong way when she was crossing Wigmore Street in the midsummer twilight. Between the darkness and the daylight.

'Miss Armstrong?'

A policeman? Or a paramedic. Someone official, someone who must have looked in her bag and found something with her name on it. She had been at a concert – Shostakovich. The string quartets, all fifteen parsed out in servings of three a day at the Wigmore Hall. It was Wednesday – the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth. She supposed she would miss the rest of them now.

'Miss Armstrong?'

In the June of 1942 she had been in the Royal Albert Hall for the concert premiere of the Seventh Symphony, the '...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Loyalties, betrayals, being duped into playing for the other side--these are all the standard stuff of spy fiction. But in Atkinson's ingenious novel, she uses these conventions as a springboard to consider larger ideas: individual motivations toward patriotism, the ambiguity of reality, and the slippery nature of time.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Suspenseful...The book ends on an uncertain note for Juliet, a poignant denouement for this transportive, wholly realized historical novel.

Booklist
Starred Review. Atkinson never fails to take us beyond an individual's circumstances to the achingly human, often-contradictory impulses within...[T]his is a wonderful novel about making choices, failing to make them, and living, with some degree of grace, the lives our choices determine for us.

Library Journal
Starred Review. With a fascinating cast of characters, careful plotting, and lyrical language in turns comical and tragic, Atkinson's complex story carefully unveils the outer demands and inner conflicts that war inflicts on people. A delight for fans of A.S. Byatt and Ian McEwan.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. As ever, Atkinson is sharp, precise, and funny ... Another beautifully crafted book from an author of great intelligence and empathy.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

Another Atkinson masterpiece.
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 ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

World War II Bombings at the BBC

Exterior of BBC's Broadcasting House after bombing on 15 October, 1940"Roughly speaking, for everything that could be considered an historical fact in this book, I made something up," writes Atkinson in an author's note at the end of Transcription. One thing she did not need to augment with fiction were the amazing stories of the British Broadcasting Company during World War II, many of which are related as still-vivid anecdotes during Juliet's postwar employment there.

The BBC offices and studios were considered to be likely targets for German bombing campaigns, so several departments—from Drama to Music and Variety—were transferred to various locations outside the city. Meanwhile, the producers and reporters who remained at BBC headquarters in London came to view the Criterion ...

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