Transcription (Atkinson)

Kate Atkinson, 2018
Little, Brown and Company
352 pp.

A thrilling new novel from the 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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—York, England, UK
Education—M.A., Dundee University
Awards—Whitbread Award; Woman's Own Short Story Award; Ian St. James Award; Saltire Book of the Year Award; Prix Westminster
Currently—lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Kate Atkinson was born in York, and studied English Literature at the University of Dundee, gaining her Masters Degree in 1974. She subsequently studied for a doctorate in American Literature which she failed at the viva stage. During her final year of this course, she was married for the first time, although the marriage lasted only two years.

After leaving the university, she took on a variety of miscellaneous jobs from home help to legal secretary and teacher. She lived in Whitby, Yorkshire for a time, before moving to Edinburgh, where she taught at Dundee University and began writing short stories. She now lives in Edinburgh.

She initially wrote for women's magazines after winning the 1986 Woman's Own Short Story Competition. She was runner-up for the Bridport Short Story Prize in 1990 and won an Ian St James Award in 1993 for her short-story "Karmic Mothers," which she later adapted for BBC2 television as part of its Tartan Shorts series.

Atkinson's breakthrough was with her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which won the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year award, ahead of Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh and Roy Jenkins biography of William Ewart Gladstone. The book has been adapted for radio, theatre and television. She has since written several more novels, short stories and a play. Case Histories (2004) was described by Stephen King as "the best mystery of the decade." The book won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

Her work is often celebrated for its wit, wisdom and subtle characterisation, and the surprising twists and plot turns. Four of her novels have featured the popular former detective Jackson Brodie—Case Histories (2004), One Good Turn (2006), When Will There Be Good News (2008), and Started Early, Took My Dog (2010). She has shown that, stylistically, she is also a comic novelist who often juxtaposes mundane everyday life with fantastic magical events, a technique that contributes to her work's pervasive magic realism.

Life After Life (2013) revolves around Ursula Todd's continual birth and rebirth. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called it "a big book that defies logic, chronology and even history in ways that underscore its author's fully untethered imagination."

A God in Ruins (2015), the companion book to Life After Life, follows Ursula's brother Todd who survived the war, only to succumb to disillusionment and guilt at having survived.

Atkinson was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to literature. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
[A] suspenseful novel… enlivened by its heroine’s witty, sardonic voice as she is transformed from an innocent, unsophisticated young woman into a spy for Britain’s MI5 during WWII.… [A] transportive, wholly realized historical novel.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) [S]uperb…. 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. —Penelope J.M. Klein, Fayetteville, NY
Library Journal

(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.

(Starred review) [A] sort of demystified thriller… [with] intrigue …[and] surprises.… The deepest pleasure …is the author's language. As ever, Atkinson is sharp, precise, and funny.… Another beautifully crafted book from an author of great intelligence and empathy
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers Book Club Resources. They can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(Resources by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2020