Transcription
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.

Transcription Details

TitleTranscription
Author
ReleaseSep 25th, 2018
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316176637
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, European Literature, British Literature

Transcription Review

  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    “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.
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    Not all of Kate Atkinson’s novels have been what she calls historical fiction, but the last several have been. This novel may hew closest to the truth, though like she says in the Author’s Note at the end, she wrenched open history and stuffed it with imaginative reconstruction, at least one fantasy for each fact. The author tells us afterward what her intentions were: we have questions—that’s inevitable—and instead of farming out possible answers to various reviewers, she’s just blunt with us w Not all of Kate Atkinson’s novels have been what she calls historical fiction, but the last several have been. This novel may hew closest to the truth, though like she says in the Author’s Note at the end, she wrenched open history and stuffed it with imaginative reconstruction, at least one fantasy for each fact. The author tells us afterward what her intentions were: we have questions—that’s inevitable—and instead of farming out possible answers to various reviewers, she’s just blunt with us what we’d been wondering about. There is something comparable in theatre, when the actors takes off their masks for the final bow and we all celebrate together.Atkinson returns to the Second World War, periodic releases from the National Archives of secrets from that time fueling her creative process. When she discovers [true fact] an ordinary-seeming bank clerk was a major cog in rounding up British supporters of Nazis, her story had a frame. When she discovered [true fact] hundreds and hundreds of pages of transcripts of conversations of dissident groups in London, her story had a heart.What Kate Atkinson does is not necessarily unique (using historical documents to create fiction), but what she does with it is unique. Her style, tone, and characters are recognizably hers. She is funny: one knows there are people out there whose droll delivery of witty responses to ordinary questions is quintessentially British but we don’t come across it enough. Atkinson can do repartee. By now Atkinson may be incapable now of writing a straightforward fiction with a chronological timeline. This novel has only three time periods to work with and really only one central character, which simplifies the action enough that I only had to reread an earlier section once. This was partly due to my surprise, maybe a little resentment, and finally pleasure at being taken out of the action at what seemed like a critical moment…again! She’d done that to me in the previous section as well. I was burrowed in like a tick, and am yanked to a later, earlier, whatever time. Atkinson manages to satisfy and confound a reader at the same time. Atkinson’s characters always have the ‘ghost of Jackson Brodie’ about them. This is a very good thing, considering how much we liked Brodie and wouldn’t mind having him resurrected. We could make the case that the main character in this novel, Juliet Armstrong, is a female Jackson Brodie—honest and therefore vulnerable, she doesn’t have so high an opinion of herself that she is insufferable. In the end she is well able to take care of herself. She’s smart, and a very good liar, but keeps herself a little distant. After all, who can one trust?At eighteen, Juliet is parentless: "her mother's death had revealed that there was no metaphor too ostentatious for grief." Young and alone, Juliet was not, however, callow. She lied like crazy through a job interview with a flippant and overly-inquisitive young man who interviewed her for a job, which she was surprised she got. Later she learned he'd known every lie, and appreciated the ease with which she misled him. This book is about spies, spies working in the service of the British government, or so we believe. What is special is that we see what is British about them—what is ordinary, patriotic, courageous, honorable. But we also see a nation at war and we see duplicity, hunger, ambition, pettiness. Then we lay over that the work of the other nations at war, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and a few exceptional people emerge alive, not unscathed, but breathing at the end. The tension comes when we are not sure who will remain standing.Atkinson writes about the middle of the twentieth century, but she could be talking about the twenty-first: Juliet could still remember when Hitler had seemed like a harmless clown. No one was amused now. (“The clowns are the dangerous ones, Perry said.”)andDo not equate nationalism with patriotism…Nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism.One always senses the intelligence in Atkinson’s work. She not only writes a good story which means getting the humanity right, she makes us think while we read. She’s unpredictable. And frankly, I like her politics. It’s always a pleasure to enjoy another of her books.
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    If you've only read a couple of Kate Atkinson novels, you may think she does just one thing. She doesn't. In fact, I tend to get a little miffed when she sticks with one thing for too long because I want to see her stretch out in every direction. When I started TRANSCRIPTION and realized we were back in WWII (major setting of her last two novels) I thought, "Nooooooooo not again," but I couldn't have been more wrong. This isn't a follow-up to LIFE AFTER LIFE or A GOD IN RUINS in any significant If you've only read a couple of Kate Atkinson novels, you may think she does just one thing. She doesn't. In fact, I tend to get a little miffed when she sticks with one thing for too long because I want to see her stretch out in every direction. When I started TRANSCRIPTION and realized we were back in WWII (major setting of her last two novels) I thought, "Nooooooooo not again," but I couldn't have been more wrong. This isn't a follow-up to LIFE AFTER LIFE or A GOD IN RUINS in any significant way. This, my friends, is a spy novel and a real juicy one at that. But it does have the one Atkinson trademark, where you finish it feeling like you've read a fancy literary novel while still indulging in real genre thrills.We start in 1950 where Juliet is moving towards spinsterhood with a rather dull job producing children's educational radio shows for the BBC. A chance encounter with someone from her past in MI5 sets off a long flashback to 1940. Juliet is barely an adult when she's brought in to do secretarial work for the government as so many women did during the war. She ends up, seemingly through sheer happenstance, taking on a covert job as a transcriptionist, listening in on a British spy who is undercover among German sympathizers. It starts out as dull work but soon Juliet is roped into taking on a larger role in the operation. For a while we move back and forth between these two times, learning more about what Juliet did for MI5 during the war and following her growing paranoia a decade later as she suspects that someone is after her for what she did back then. This isn't exactly a traditional thriller, though the tension is expertly managed, mostly by the way Atkinson toys with the reader. She can turn on a dime, and Juliet's wry outlook on the world provides a healthy helping of humor amid the growing suspense. It's not just a suspenseful spy novel, it's building a whole world for Juliet to live in, which makes the spy part work even better. When you can see all the little players everywhere, you start to wonder if all of them are who they say they are and just what there may be below the surface behind any face, any front door, any shop window. It was a joy to read, I sped through it, and honestly I'm not sure I could have ordered up a Kate Atkinson novel right now that would have hit that Kate Atkinson-y spot so nicely.
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  • Monica
    January 1, 1970
    I'm so excited - a new Kate Atkinson novel!
  • Liz Barnsley
    January 1, 1970
    I am a huge fan of Kate Atkinson’s wonderful storytelling and for me Transcription was a pure joy from the moment I started it until the moment I reluctantly set it aside.The writing is genuinely superb, beautifully done and I adored Juliet, her manner, her acerbic inner dialogue and her highly intriguing yet strangely genteel existence.The setting and the time brought to utterly vivid life, we follow Juliet as she becomes part of the war effort, gets entangled in intrigue and faces unknowable c I am a huge fan of Kate Atkinson’s wonderful storytelling and for me Transcription was a pure joy from the moment I started it until the moment I reluctantly set it aside.The writing is genuinely superb, beautifully done and I adored Juliet, her manner, her acerbic inner dialogue and her highly intriguing yet strangely genteel existence.The setting and the time brought to utterly vivid life, we follow Juliet as she becomes part of the war effort, gets entangled in intrigue and faces unknowable consequences years later. The pace is sedate yet entirely compelling, Juliet is incredibly engaging and the lines between fact and fiction blur into one addictively riveting tale.Transcription is a literary delight, a tranquil pond in the middle of a storm, often unexpected, emotionally resonant and pitched perfectly throughout. I loved it, the ending had me teary eyed and this is one of those books where I know I will miss those fictional yet honestly authentic characters for months to come.Magic. Highly Recommended.
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  • Maine Colonial
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to the publisher for providing a free digital ARC, via Netgalley. I just finished the book, loved it (it is very rare for me to 5-star a book), and I plan to not only re-read it, but also buy a copy when it’s published.This book is a special treat for readers who enjoy novels about people (especially women) involved in World War II and/or the Cold War intelligence work in England. Like many Kate Atkinson novels, there is some time jumping here. There are short bookends set in 1981, but th Thanks to the publisher for providing a free digital ARC, via Netgalley. I just finished the book, loved it (it is very rare for me to 5-star a book), and I plan to not only re-read it, but also buy a copy when it’s published.This book is a special treat for readers who enjoy novels about people (especially women) involved in World War II and/or the Cold War intelligence work in England. Like many Kate Atkinson novels, there is some time jumping here. There are short bookends set in 1981, but the bulk of the novel is set in two time periods: 1940 and 1950.In 1940, Juliet Armstrong is just 18 years old and an orphan when she is recruited to work for MI5. After a stint doing dull work in records, she’s chosen to help in a plan to entrap a ring of fifth columnists. In so many ways, her new role is not at all what she expected, and it will be the pivotal experience of her life. In 1950, Juliet works at the BBC as a producer, which seems to be a landing place for many former members of the intelligence services.Atkinson’s close description of people and places draws the reader into this slow-burn story. Though I’ve read many books about WW2/Cold War espionage, I never saw where this was going. In part, because with Atkinson it’s not so much about having an action-packed plot as it is about examining the interior life of her main character and how she navigates the confusing and lonely world of intelligence work. That description makes the book sound so serious, doesn’t it? Well, it is serious, but also dryly funny, especially Juliet’s acerbic thoughts about her targets and, even more so, her male bosses.As with Atkinson’s standout Life After Life (one of my all-time favorite books), Transcription is also a female Bildungsroman, and that’s where its deeper resonance lies. Just imagine yourself at 18, alone in 1940 England, with everything about your life and the life of your country in question. You’re recruited to work for an agency you’ve never heard of and required to keep everything completely secret. You’re on a need-to-know basis, and often your (male) superiors don’t seem to think you need to know much of anything. You’re just supposed to be a good girl and do what you’re told—but your superiors don’t always seem to be on the same page. Ultimately, it looks like you must just keep your mouth shut and make your choices. Choices that will have repercussions throughout the rest of your life.One last thing: Do yourself a favor and be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the book. Atkinson writes about what inspired her to write this book and lists other books that she recommends and were sources for her. Her inspiration story is fascinating, and several of her cited sources are now on my to-read list.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Hitler was collecting countries like stamps. How long before he had the full set? Transcription by Kate AtkinsonI was swept into Transcription, enthralled with Kate Atkinson's atmospheric and witty writing, the recreation of England during the rise of Hitler, and the espionage ring with its vivid characters and uncertain alliances.The novel opens in 1950 with twenty-eight-year-old Juliet working in post-war London for the BBC."There was a better life somewhere, Juliet supposed, if only she could Hitler was collecting countries like stamps. How long before he had the full set? Transcription by Kate AtkinsonI was swept into Transcription, enthralled with Kate Atkinson's atmospheric and witty writing, the recreation of England during the rise of Hitler, and the espionage ring with its vivid characters and uncertain alliances.The novel opens in 1950 with twenty-eight-year-old Juliet working in post-war London for the BBC."There was a better life somewhere, Juliet supposed, if only she could be bothered to find it." Transcription by Kate AtkinsonJulie fingers her necklace of pearls, which she admits she took off a dead woman who was heavier to lift than she looked. We learn that Julie tells lies to strangers. She sees a man she used to know by two names, who tells her "I think you have confused me with someone else." And in a local cafe, a strange man observes her "in a way that was extremely disconcerting." Julie reflects on her time with MI5 during the war ten years previous, when she was a transcriptionist typing recordings of traitorous conversations. Juliet's life working for MI5 alternates between boredom and mystery. She is never completely filled in on the operations, merely does as she is told. She drifts along with whatever comes, even into a mock engagement with a coworker who shows no physical interest in her. She is given a fake identity as part of a sting operation. She is a natural liar and playactor.The future of England at stake, with Fascists sympathizers and Communist sympathizers and loyal royalists endeavoring for the prize.This England, is it worth fighting for? Transcription by Kate AtkinsonThe novel ends with unexpected turns of events. "It was all such a waste of breath. War and peace. Peace and war. It would go on forever without end." Transcription by Kate AtkinsonI am so happy to have finally read Atkinson. I can't wait to get a hold of her previous books.I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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  • Susan Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    Atkinson returns to WWII again for her newest novel but it is not a sequel to her wonderful A God in Ruins book. In this one, 18 year old Juliet is hired to be be a spy for MI-5 but not a glamorous one. She sits in a small apartment transcribing conversations of British citizens who think they are reporting to a German spy. They are traitors but on such a small scale that it is almost laughable. The story flashes between 1940 and her activities and 1950 where she has become the producer of dull Atkinson returns to WWII again for her newest novel but it is not a sequel to her wonderful A God in Ruins book. In this one, 18 year old Juliet is hired to be be a spy for MI-5 but not a glamorous one. She sits in a small apartment transcribing conversations of British citizens who think they are reporting to a German spy. They are traitors but on such a small scale that it is almost laughable. The story flashes between 1940 and her activities and 1950 where she has become the producer of dull BBC stories for schoolkids. It is alarming for her when some of the people she worked with in the 40's start making appearances in her new life. They don't deal directly with her and, at times, deny they know her. The juxtaposition of the two time periods keeps the story taut and tantalizing. Atkinson admits she made up most of the history but her research is so good that you never know which are real facts and which are fiction. It is irrelevant because the points she is making are the ones that are important. It is alarming how much rings true to our political situation today. Two points that really stood out to me are:Juliet could still remember when Hitler had seemed like a harmless clown. No one was amused now. (“The clowns are the dangerous ones, Perry said.”)andDo not equate nationalism with patriotism…Nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism.Now who does that sound like? It's chilling. This book cries out for a discussion. I would love to sit down with a group of friends discussing this book. It is a book that was meant to be talked about and shared. I would love to know what others thought about several of Juliet's kinks. I can't wait until there is a group discussion I can join.Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of the is book in exchange for a fair review.
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  • Jonathanrwilson
    January 1, 1970
    4 stars just for the quality of Atkinson's writing. But for me this wasn't as epic as A God in Ruins, and by the end the plotting was too clever for its own good, even to the point where I felt a little cheated by what had come before. But still, I'll read anything this woman writes.
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  • Billie
    January 1, 1970
    It was fine, but I never really connected with Juliet. She was naive and a bit stupid and uninteresting because of it.
  • Latkins
    January 1, 1970
    Another great novel from Kate Atkinson, this is also the second novel I've read this year which is about spies in London, dealing with fifth columnists and Nazi sympathisers during the Second World War - the other being the equally excellent Our Friends in Berlin by Anthony Quinn. Both were inspired by newly declassified documents, I believe. Anyway, this novel follows Juliet Armstrong, an orphan who's recruited into MI5 in 1940 and who finds herself transcribing covertly recorded conversations Another great novel from Kate Atkinson, this is also the second novel I've read this year which is about spies in London, dealing with fifth columnists and Nazi sympathisers during the Second World War - the other being the equally excellent Our Friends in Berlin by Anthony Quinn. Both were inspired by newly declassified documents, I believe. Anyway, this novel follows Juliet Armstrong, an orphan who's recruited into MI5 in 1940 and who finds herself transcribing covertly recorded conversations between spy Godfrey Toby and a range of Nazi sympathisers who believe that he is working for Germany. As well as this, she's asked to sound out another fifth columnist by posing as a different young woman, a mission which goes terribly wrong. It also describes her life in the 1950s, when she works for the BBC, and finds that her past has come back to haunt her. As usual with Atkinson, there is a seam of dark humour which runs through this novel, as Juliet seems to be at mercy of the whims of various MI5 agents. It's thoroughly enjoyable, and will delight both fans of Atkinson and fans of spy thrillers, as there is a central mystery which will keep you guessing until the end.
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    How do you reinvent yourself when your old job was inventing identities? Our protagonist, Juliet Armstrong, vulnerable after her beloved mother’s death, was recruited into the MI5 in 1940, when she was just eighteen. Before she was mature enough to forge her own coherent convictions, she was trained in the art of duplicity, impenetrability; her individual identity was subsumed in her patriotic one. Now, in 1950, working as a producer for the BBC, and having left the Secret Service behind her, ca How do you reinvent yourself when your old job was inventing identities? Our protagonist, Juliet Armstrong, vulnerable after her beloved mother’s death, was recruited into the MI5 in 1940, when she was just eighteen. Before she was mature enough to forge her own coherent convictions, she was trained in the art of duplicity, impenetrability; her individual identity was subsumed in her patriotic one. Now, in 1950, working as a producer for the BBC, and having left the Secret Service behind her, can she distinguish between her idealism of ten years ago and the person she is now? Through Juliet, Atkinson explores the weight of idealism and the psyche of selfhood, as well as the ghosts that confront your present with the choices of your past. As the protagonist muses, “And there was Juliet Armstrong, of course, who some days seemed like the most fictitious of them all, despite being the ‘real’ Juliet. But then what constituted real? Wasn’t everything, even this life itself, just a game of deception?”The title of the novel refers to Juliet’s main occupation in counter-espionage, to covertly transcribe the conversations of a motley group of Fascist sympathizers who think they are meeting weekly with an agent of the German government. However, these “fifth column” traitors are kept from spreading their “evil deeds” by one of MI5’s agents, an enigmatic man himself, who convinces these men and women that their cause is moving forward. Next door, Juliet is challenged by the ambient noise, a yapping dog owned by one of the members, and the limits of the listening devices that connect her to their voices. Sometimes, transcribing the conversations forces her to read between the lines.I recently finished Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter, an American novel that pairs the psyche and duplicity of spies with the grief that the protagonist suffers after the death of her father, who worked for the CIA. Both novels’ protagonists suffer loss of a parent, and the grief abuts their connection to the work of deception and patriotism. Although Carpenter’s character is not an agent herself, that novel bolstered my understanding in TRANSCRIPTION, to how idealism and identity are both hand-in-hand and adversaries.“That eager-to-please…girl, transmuted by bereavement, had gone. And, as far as Juliet could tell, she had never come back.” And, in her interview for the MI5--“It had been a lie, of course. Her mother hadn’t been well, not at all, in fact she had been dying,… but Juliet had preferred the subterfuge of her mother’s health.”Atkinson’s trademark levity, her droll wit and finesse, is consistently on display in TRANSCRIPTION. Although Juliet is often humorous and self-deprecating, her serious moments have teeth, and I could feel them biting at my back, both her fear and her determination. The ghosts from her past possessed a comic presence and a haunting undertone. The author seamlessly yokes the buoyant Juliet with poignancy and grit. Terror and danger is balanced with jaunt and nonchalance. The story also contains striking italicized phrases that pop out of Juliet’s thoughts--some of them like a refrain that periodically arise while gathering heat, others known by the reader to have meaning, and still others offhand at first, then carrying more sinister weight. Many phrases are cryptic, but you know they must be loaded, despite their insouciance. That is Atkinson’s exquisite nuance at work. They become like iron fillings collecting on the table—you know there is a magnet underneath. Atkinson kept me going from point to precipice.“It was the war…it has made refugees of us all.”
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.Kate Atkinson is excellent at creating characters who inspire devotion even when the story she's telling about them is not that great. This is a tough book to review for me because I was slain by Atkinson's previous WWII-era novels and I wanted to love this so badly and it just was not of the same caliber, but I'm disoriented at the realization that while Juliet Armstrong's work for MI5 and her life after the war never advanced in I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.Kate Atkinson is excellent at creating characters who inspire devotion even when the story she's telling about them is not that great. This is a tough book to review for me because I was slain by Atkinson's previous WWII-era novels and I wanted to love this so badly and it just was not of the same caliber, but I'm disoriented at the realization that while Juliet Armstrong's work for MI5 and her life after the war never advanced into amazing reading territory and was in fact a bit repetitive, I could have read several more mundane chapters about her and Toby Jug and Cyril and Perry and all of that with no problem. But heaven save me from that twist ending, for which there was no justification whatsoever.
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  • Megan Abbott
    January 1, 1970
    Kate Atkinson at her very best (well, that's practically all the time, but ...). I told myself I'd read it slowly, savor it. But instead, I tore through it with such ferocity, I'm still quaking in my knees. Beautiful, harrowing, haunting.
  • Joanna
    January 1, 1970
    Let me start by saying I won an ARC in a Goodreads Giveaway & who knows if anything noticeable will change before the book is released in September. Kate Atkinson is one of my favorites, but this one fell flat. I enjoyed the 1940 sections a lot, but the 1950 section in the middle really dragged. I liked the book, but it didn’t live up to the high standards set by Case Histories and A God in Ruins.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    I REALLY like Kate Atkinson’s writing, and the writing in this new novel is first-rate. But even my favorite of hers (Life After Life) left me feeling not quite *bright* enough to get the ending and the meaning of the whole thing. Transcription left me with that feeling as well, but I didn’t have the same feelings for the main character to pull me through.Juliet is a spy, working a boring day-spy job as a transcriptionist and a less boring side job trying to snare other spies for MI6. She is a s I REALLY like Kate Atkinson’s writing, and the writing in this new novel is first-rate. But even my favorite of hers (Life After Life) left me feeling not quite *bright* enough to get the ending and the meaning of the whole thing. Transcription left me with that feeling as well, but I didn’t have the same feelings for the main character to pull me through.Juliet is a spy, working a boring day-spy job as a transcriptionist and a less boring side job trying to snare other spies for MI6. She is a strong character with a wry take on life, but seems so uncommitted to, well, anything that it was hard to develop strong feelings for her. The plot follows a non-linear timeline, and many of the secondary characters were so indistinguishable that I often had a difficult time understanding what was happening or its implications. But, in the end, Atkinson’s sparkling writing kept me involved enough that I read through my confusion. This was not the tour de force of either Life After Life or A God in Ruins, but I enjoy her writing enough not to be too bothered.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Frim BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:Set in the years after WWII, Kate Atkinson's new novel puts idealism on the spot and asks who can be trusted when loyalty is pushed to its limits.Radio producer Juliet Armstrong spots an all-too-familiar face in a crowded London street.Abridged by Robin BrooksRead by Fenella WoolgarProducer: Eilidh McCreadie.https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bg...
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  • Marjorie
    January 1, 1970
    Entertaining, thought-provoking spy novel. Recommended. Complete review to be posted closer to the publication date of 9/25/2018.
  • Kady
    January 1, 1970
    Man this was a disappointment. Maybe I would have liked it better if it didn’t call itself a thriller so I didn’t have the expectation to be thrilled. Or maybe it would be more effective as a movie like Bridge of Spies where the music cues could do the work of building tension/excitement because the text was not doing that for me. In any case I was lost for large pieces of this. It felt like there was a lot of assumed knowledge about MI5 and the Cold War and I don’t have any of that. Also Juliet Man this was a disappointment. Maybe I would have liked it better if it didn’t call itself a thriller so I didn’t have the expectation to be thrilled. Or maybe it would be more effective as a movie like Bridge of Spies where the music cues could do the work of building tension/excitement because the text was not doing that for me. In any case I was lost for large pieces of this. It felt like there was a lot of assumed knowledge about MI5 and the Cold War and I don’t have any of that. Also Juliet as written was a weird cipher of sorts. I think I’m supposed to gather that she is good at spy stuff but mostly things seem to happen to her. I just think there was a way for this to be written effectively but as is it was a muddle. Or maybe I’m missing the point! I feel weird not liking it!
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  • Kalen
    January 1, 1970
    *** 1/2 I am puzzled by people who use 3-star ratings for books they didn't like. Alas. Kate Atkinson fans rejoice! You won't be disappointed with her next book, a solid offering. Set largely in the 1940s and 1950s, this is the story of a young woman working for MI5 and the aftermath. (Does one ever really quit working for the Service?) I had some trouble keeping characters straight (one of the downsides of an eReader) but overall, I enjoyed the story and its characters, up until the end where i *** 1/2 I am puzzled by people who use 3-star ratings for books they didn't like. Alas. Kate Atkinson fans rejoice! You won't be disappointed with her next book, a solid offering. Set largely in the 1940s and 1950s, this is the story of a young woman working for MI5 and the aftermath. (Does one ever really quit working for the Service?) I had some trouble keeping characters straight (one of the downsides of an eReader) but overall, I enjoyed the story and its characters, up until the end where it all seemed to conclude a bit too quickly and maybe a bit too neatly. Still, good fun for anyone who like Atkinson and spy stories. Most spy novels revolve around men so it is fun to have a novel that doesn't--there are a lot of women in this book, several of them in key roles.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    SO EXCITED about this book!
  • KayG
    January 1, 1970
    Behind the Scenes at the Museum is one of my favorite novels, so I was eager to read the newest book by Kate Atkinson. The setting of this work of historical fiction is primarily during WWII, and the subject matter is the work of a network of English spies attempting to learn information from members of the fifth column. The main character is a young woman who transcribes these conversations. It’s always interesting for me to read stories of WWII, and this one was no exception. Atkinson moves th Behind the Scenes at the Museum is one of my favorite novels, so I was eager to read the newest book by Kate Atkinson. The setting of this work of historical fiction is primarily during WWII, and the subject matter is the work of a network of English spies attempting to learn information from members of the fifth column. The main character is a young woman who transcribes these conversations. It’s always interesting for me to read stories of WWII, and this one was no exception. Atkinson moves the action quickly and somehow manages to insert humor into this serious subject. I am always grateful to learn a bit more about this fascinating time of history. This book was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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  • Kaijsa
    January 1, 1970
    As an Atkinson fan, I’m more than satisfied. This is the story (stories) of Juliet Armstrong, a young transcriptionist for MI5 during WWII. Like most Atkinson books, this jumps forward and back in time and events and things about the characters are revealed bit by bit. I don’t want to say too much about Juliet or what happens because I so enjoyed discovering everything for myself and don’t want to spoil it. Whether you’ve read and loved Life Afer Life or the Brody books or not, I encourage you t As an Atkinson fan, I’m more than satisfied. This is the story (stories) of Juliet Armstrong, a young transcriptionist for MI5 during WWII. Like most Atkinson books, this jumps forward and back in time and events and things about the characters are revealed bit by bit. I don’t want to say too much about Juliet or what happens because I so enjoyed discovering everything for myself and don’t want to spoil it. Whether you’ve read and loved Life Afer Life or the Brody books or not, I encourage you to read this.I received a free ebook ARC from Transworld via NetGalley. This is my honest review.
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  • Anne Marie
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely LOVED this novel about espionage in WWII Britain. The surprise ending didn't disappoint, rather it made the novel more persuasive. It's clear that Ms. Atkinson did a lot of research on this novel. She includes an extensive bibliography of texts on M15 (the British spy agency) and the BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) that she used when writing the book; the appended bibliography is more extensive than some bibliographies in nonfiction books! This is the perfect book to lear I absolutely LOVED this novel about espionage in WWII Britain. The surprise ending didn't disappoint, rather it made the novel more persuasive. It's clear that Ms. Atkinson did a lot of research on this novel. She includes an extensive bibliography of texts on M15 (the British spy agency) and the BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) that she used when writing the book; the appended bibliography is more extensive than some bibliographies in nonfiction books! This is the perfect book to learn a little about British espionage, WWII, and the BBC. Highly recommended!
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  • Joy
    January 1, 1970
    Another engaging novel with stellar writing from Kate Atkinson. She takes a satisfyingly close look at the individual’s experience of wartime and provides a unique view of espionage with an unwitting MI5 recruit.
  • Lucio Vaccarello
    January 1, 1970
    Kate Atkinson uses all of her considerable literary powers to wickedly spoof the byzantine, ruthless and insane world of espionage. The story is set in Britain circa 1940 with flash forwards to 1950 and the world of the BBC for reflection and a view of the changed world. The book describes the beginnings of MI5 as told through the eyes of Juliet Armstrong, a young women of 18, still recovering from the loss of her mother. She is naive and like most people of this age, searching for purpose and m Kate Atkinson uses all of her considerable literary powers to wickedly spoof the byzantine, ruthless and insane world of espionage. The story is set in Britain circa 1940 with flash forwards to 1950 and the world of the BBC for reflection and a view of the changed world. The book describes the beginnings of MI5 as told through the eyes of Juliet Armstrong, a young women of 18, still recovering from the loss of her mother. She is naive and like most people of this age, searching for purpose and meaning to her life. Through pure chance Juliet is conscripted as an agent for the fledgling MI5 and tasked with covertly transcribing the treasonous plotting by a group of British Nazi sympathizers. She and the plotters are manipulated by Godfrey Toby, the Machiavellian and slippery architect of the new agency.Juliet learns about life, politics, love and the treachery of the human heart and mind. A tale well told with humor, wit and added dollops of the absurd. If you are a Kate Atkinson fan you will be in good spirits and chuckle throughout like I did..
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  • Bruce Katz
    January 1, 1970
    Alas, I am unable to use my right hand — it’s in a sling — and pecking with my left hand is too arduous to write a review. Hence a few observations. This may well be my favorite book by Kate Atkinson, which is saying a lot. It’s smart and playful, serious and genuinely (though, well, playfully) suspenseful. The main character, Juliet, is a treasure: at first, terribly young, naive, funny, smart, and not immune to self-aware cliches; later, all these things but more worldly. I found myself thinki Alas, I am unable to use my right hand — it’s in a sling — and pecking with my left hand is too arduous to write a review. Hence a few observations. This may well be my favorite book by Kate Atkinson, which is saying a lot. It’s smart and playful, serious and genuinely (though, well, playfully) suspenseful. The main character, Juliet, is a treasure: at first, terribly young, naive, funny, smart, and not immune to self-aware cliches; later, all these things but more worldly. I found myself thinking of her being played by a young Katherine Hepburn in a movie based on the book. Expect surprises and lots of twists, of finding yourself going back to an earlier part of the book because you discover belatedly that something went over your head. Expect lots of delightful wordplay and literary allusions (very British in tone, don’t you know) and rapid-fire dialogue that brings a smile to your face and maybe even an audible chuckle. Spies and counterspies, characters who are not what they appear to be. Most of all, expect to have lots of fun.
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  • Imogen
    January 1, 1970
    I was pretty much sold by "spies" and "Second World War", but it certainly didn't hurt that this book is also brilliantly well-written and full of dry humour and satisfying intertextuality.
  • Debbie Gascoyne
    January 1, 1970
    There are many pleasures to be had in this most recent novel by the always interesting Kate Atkinson. Not the least of them is the  voice of the narrator, Juliet Armstrong, whose acute observations and wry commentary make the book sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.This is a Chinese puzzle of a book; it is framed by brief scenes in a hospital in 1981, when Juliet has been hit by a car (no spoiler, this happens in the first couple of pages). It then jumps to 1950, where Juliet is a producer for the B There are many pleasures to be had in this most recent novel by the always interesting Kate Atkinson. Not the least of them is the  voice of the narrator, Juliet Armstrong, whose acute observations and wry commentary make the book sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.This is a Chinese puzzle of a book; it is framed by brief scenes in a hospital in 1981, when Juliet has been hit by a car (no spoiler, this happens in the first couple of pages). It then jumps to 1950, where Juliet is a producer for the BBC Schools Service, and then to 1940, when the then eighteen-year-old Juliet is recruited by MI5, not, to her disappointment, as a bona-fide spy, but for her secretarial skills. Her job is to transcribe meetings between an agent working under cover as a Fifth Columnist and the various fascist agents he has contact with. This happened in real life, and Atkinson tells us in her afterword that the actual transcripts were the inspiration for this novel. But, as Juliet thinks to herself, "History should always have a plot .... How else could you make sense of it?"However, one of the epigraphs of the novel is a quote by Winston Churchill: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." At one point, when she resigns herself to a less exciting job than she had hoped, Juliet thinks to herself "Choice, it seemed, was one of the first casualties of war"; so, of course, if we correct her misquotation, is truth. No one and nothing are quite what they seem: one character tells her "It's all a front, darling," and her internal response is "But then wasn't everything?"But to focus on the thematic aspects of the work is to take away from its comedy. It is almost a comedy of manners; one pictures the characters in Philip Larkin's "old style hats and coats" acting in a black and white Ealing comedy, with a script by Noel Coward. Hardly a page goes by without an amusing aside or editorial commentary from Juliet's inner voice. One particular favourite is when a pedantic teacher quizzes her on word derivation: "'Hypocaustum from the Ancient Greek - hypo meaning beneath and caust burnt. Which word do you think we get from that?'  'I have no idea,' she said, caustically."This is not a novel that tells a straight-forward story of wartime derring-do; it is something more complex, but cloaked in a light tone and featuring mishaps and misadventure. Most importantly, it is an exploration of story-telling, of information and mis-information. At a climactic point in the narrative, one character declares "Come now, quite enough of exposition and explanation. We're not approaching the end of a novel, Miss Armstrong." But of course they are.I was provided an advance copy of this novel by NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: I'm biased where Kate Atkinson is involved. Hence, 4 stars. I was not entranced, but rather intrigued by this subtle spy novel.Admirable writing and research, less so the story. Perhaps because I have read similar, lately. [WWII]"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 f Disclaimer: I'm biased where Kate Atkinson is involved. Hence, 4 stars. I was not entranced, but rather intrigued by this subtle spy novel.Admirable writing and research, less so the story. Perhaps because I have read similar, lately. [WWII]"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."A work of historical fiction. In the author's note, Atkinson says the book was rooted in reality. But "..for everything that could be considered an historical fact in this book, I made something up--and I'd like to think that a lot of the time readers won't be aqble to tell the difference."Kudos for the wit [unexpected and sprinkled throughout], the character observations, the weaving of the story [back and forth, WWI and 1981]. One example of humor: "Has the cat got your tongue? (What an awful idea, Juliet thought. And how would the cat get it--by accident or by design?)"Juliet, the main character, often less interesting than others who populated the novel. Still--no spoiler alert--taken by surprise towards the end--which is always a bonus for me. The situation involving Juliet's work as a transcriptionist--very interesting.And just certain sentences that captured my attention: "Thinking had always been her downfall.""She spoke wth a debutante drawl herself--a laryngitic, smoke-infused one...""The war still seemed like a matter of inconvenience rather than a threat.""She seemed fond of lace, it decorated her substantial hull in many manifestations.""Juliet was also finding herself unnerved by Mrs. Scaife's fur tippet--at stoat or a weasel--that was wound so tightly round her neck that it appearted to be trying to strangle her." And so on.And I learned something new [looked it up]--what a siren suit is--a one-piece suit used to go to/from air raids.So, if you like Atkinson and appreciate good writing and research--this book's for you.
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