Title: Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Book Beginnings quote, page 1:
Friday56 quote, page 23 (last page of preview):
Summary: In 1940 an eighteen-year-old Londoner and recent orphan, Juliet Armstrong, is recruited to work as in the world of espionage, spying for MI-5 on her own countrymen. After an initial training she is tapped to do transcription work from recordings made of meetings with British Fascist sympathizers. Later she infiltrates these groups posing as a sympathizer herself. The work was both tedious and extremely terrifying by turns. Once the war is over Juliet settles into a life working for the BBC as a programming engineer. One day about five years later she inadvertently bumps into one of the other spies and he acts as if he doesn't know her. This chance meeting causes her to realize that one can never really leave their past behind and very soon finds herself embroiled again in espionage activities.
Review: My husband and I recently listened to the audiobook of Transcription by Kate Atkinson. We both enjoy listening to mysteries and this book had plenty of them. The story of Juliet's life was not told in a liner fashion. The reader learns about aspects of her live in little dribs and drabs and the story moves back and forth in time to pick up and highlight new information. The first quote is about the end of her life. So we begin at the end. The second quote (from page 23, not page 56) is from the part of the story right after Juliet sees one of the spies she worked with during the war who won't acknowledge that he knows her.
The pacing of the book was uneven. There were rather dull parts where the action was focused on the waiting and the typing of the transcripts. Not very thrilling stuff. Then there were frenzied moments of action and almost throbbing tension. I suppose that was intentional since that is probably the life of someone who is doing surveillance. There are several plot twists, including a big one near the end of the book so the reader is kept on her toes throughout.
The author's notes gave me insight into the realism of this plot. Atkinson talked about the research that she was able to do about the espionage that was conducted on fellow Brits throughout the war, trying to fight Nazism at home.
This is a book club selection. These discussion questions, provided by the publisher, seem very good and should force to dig deep to answer them. In a lot of ways the book is a timely reminder of how awful the Nazis were and what it means to be a fascist.
SOTH Book Club, Dec. 2021