She senses she is being followed: A man with a pockmarked face and a woman wearing a headscarf garishly decorated with parrots keep popping up. Will This Keep You Up At Night? It was unsatisfactory in my opinion. Atkinson’s two most recent novels, “Life After Life” and “A God in Ruins,” span the two world wars and owe a lot to the conventions of historical fiction. I can't figure out if he was a double agent. Espionage is a grim business, but Atkinson’s wry style imbues the world of “Transcription” with moments of brisk cheer, as if Ian Fleming had been cross-pollinated with Barbara Pym. Kate Atkinson’s 10th novel begins in 1981 with what we presume is the death of its main character, Juliet Armstrong, now age 60. 4.5 stars Kate Atkinson's new novel, Transcription, follows Juliet Armstrong as she works in an obscure MI-5 department during World War 2 that monitors and records the activities of a pro-German group. Kate Atkinson’s fluid identity as a novelist has long marked her out as one of Britain’s most interesting – and often underrated – writers. Clueless and intellectually impetuous, if the word "intellectually" could properly be applied, when nothing Juliet did suggested that she actually thought very much about what she was doing, other than to satisfy her own selfish little purposes. Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window), Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window), The Evolution of Dave Robicheaux and the Incredible Career of James Lee Burke. I'm assuming he was because he helped Juliet get out of London. (Historical detail is deployed here to rich, often slyly comic effect. Transcription, Atkinson’s 11th novel, takes us back to the Second World War, the setting of her stupendous Life After Life and its companion novel, A God in Ruins, both of which rightly swept to victory at the Costa Awards. Transcription is set in 1940s London and follows the adventures of an 18-year-old woman named Julie Armstrong, who is recruited by British spy agency MI5 to type transcripts of conversations held between Nazi sympathizers in England and a double agent. I am delighted, because I prefer agreeing with Teresa to not agreeing with her, and because I prefer liking things to not liking things, to have enjoyed Life after Life very much. Error rating book. In Life After Life, the plot device of a woman dying and being endlessly reborn to start over delivered a kick to the heart. Will This Keep You Up At Night? Bookended by two brief scenes in 1981, Transcription jumps between 1940, when a newly orphaned, 18-year-old Juliet Armstrong is recruited as a typist into MI5, and a decade later when she’s working as a producer of children’s radio programmes for the BBC. This time around it’s not so much life after life, but aftermath and afterlife that Atkinson is concerned with, making the point that our lives are not tidily parcelled but extend beyond moments of drama into periods of consequence and reckoning. Atkinson's smoke and mirrors make it far from clear that 'This England' is really worth fighting for. ‘For softening earwax?’ he asked when she handed over her money. Is this her imagination running away with her — the thing Perry, her boss at MI5 repeatedly warned against? Juliet is held to be proficient at her job precisely because she has an active imagination (despite his warnings, she casts Perry in the role of her romantic lead) and compared to other transcribers is good at filling in the gaps. No other contemporary novelist has such supreme mastery of that sweet spot between high and low, literary and compulsively readable as Kate Atkinson. And Juliet lives long enough to understand that the red books of either side have more in common than we once imagined. And the book does work to a degree as a sort of semi-comedic thriller at times. I think though the point is that she is very naive (she doesn't twig about Perry until he gets arrested unless that, too, was her being an unreliable narrator) and sort of got caught up in it all. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/whose-truths-are-they-anyway- See all deals » I'm still wondering how she got to the ending. Perhaps the author was swayed by the fact that this type of spy work didn’t win the war, per se, so she felt she could take some liberties with it, especially when it comes to downplaying certain things. Welcome back. [The ending was terrible and a cheat to the reader. Hello. I’ll get into those reasons, but I also have to admit that this book will probably have its supporters. I can't figure out if he was a double agent. One of the books that I have on my Kindle, waiting to be read, is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. A nobody. Or a nanny. “Iris” is of a higher social class than Juliet, and has inherited diamond earrings and an imaginary fiancé, Ian, serving on HMS Hood, of whom Juliet becomes increasingly fond. Alas, it still sits unread, but when Atkinson’s new novel Transcription — a bit of a World War II espionage thriller — came up, I was eager to read it. While some crime readers will throw a book across the room if they’re not satisfied with the ending, I’m perfectly fine with a great book that trails off into nothingness, or even one that jumps the shark in the last few pages. Rachel Walker is a member of the SRB’s 2017-2018 Emerging Critics Programme. The only passage I found was the one about her reaction to Victor Fuchs' prison sentence: "Russia was an ally when he gave them secrets.....You can't be a traitor if its not the enemy.". But in the novel at hand there are no clues, no matter how many times we reread. My biggest beef with Transcription is that it is chock loaded with minor supporting characters — too many of them. But Atkinson never explains it! When a plot twist is revealed in the dying pages of Transcription, it seems to be too little, too late — it’s as though the novel is suddenly taking itself very dead serious all of a sudden, which is the kind of touch that was needed much earlier on. The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Atkinson, Kate. That ultimate paradox is a testament to Atkinson’s inventiveness as a storyteller, as well as to her powers for creating characters too real for comfort. Unless you’re a fashion publicist. You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with It was really hard for me to keep straight who’s who and what their relations were — though that might be the point of a novel that’s about moles and double agents. The new junior programme assistant, fresh from Cambridge, is “more capable than was strictly necessary”. How I Felt At The End: Damn, that’s a high body count. These transcripts run throughout the book, alerting the reader to the details we often miss and the information we misconstrue. The war exerts a magnetic pull on Atkinson’s imagination mainly, I think, because it was a time of remarkable and revealing flux for the individual. It also pursues some of the themes of her more recent fictions, Life After Life and A God in Ruins, which explored the ambiguities of war, and questions of chance and fate, with lives played out in multiple permutations. Still, Juliet makes some basic mistakes in her work that basically puts the lives and identities of the people she works with in danger, which leads one to wonder what her superiors were thinking. There was no indication in the book that she was doing that or anything else for Merton during her time working for Perry. Depends on what’s weighing on your conscience…. Juliet fell more under the allure of the left than being firmly pro-communist. What the virginal Juliet hopes will be a romantic outing with her colleague, Perry, turns into a damply deflating debacle worthy of Wodehouse. Is there a word for that feeling when you turn the last page of a novel which has kept you utterly enthralled, whose imaginary world feels so real that its sorrows are your sorrows, its joys your joys? Mrs Scaife “seemed fond of lace, it decorated her substantial hull in many manifestations”. I look forward to a new Atkinson book like I look forward to Christmas, except another woman gets to wrap up all the surprises. It’s a historical fiction story with some mystery and even humor, too. It might have been more interesting if she'd actually included the double agent thing in the plot. But the New Era Is Different. Her observations glitter with astringent wit. I really enjoyed it. I still don't. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Was Perry and Toby involved also? The job is made harder by the fact that at both MI5 and the BBC (organisations, Juliet notes, which swap personnel with remarkable ease) everyone seems to be a copy, whether playing versions of themselves, performing in the Great Game as a spy, or acting in the children’s radio histories she keeps re-writing, trying to enliven and ennoble them. Save money on clothes, holidays, days out, pregnancy and baby gear, homeware, garden furniture and more with exclusive deals! In the Blitz, characters can cast off bourgeois, peacetime expectations and try on new selves for size. I know, let’s call it Atkinson. Oh well. In the later period she finds people long thought dead, abroad, in prison, or simply gone from her life, returning to haunt her. Adopting the nom de guerre of Iris Carter-Jenkins, she is given the task of infiltrating the Right Club of aristocratic fifth columnists.
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