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Transcription: A Novel Hardcover – September 25, 2018
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"Although engrossing from beginning to end, "Transcription" starts at a measured pace, with the tandem narratives only gradually gaining velocity. But when they are finally in sync and operating at peak capacity, the result is exhilarating...Transcription" is another triumph for Atkinson - suspenseful, moving, insightful and original."―The San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 031617663X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316176637
- Product Dimensions : 6.55 x 1.4 x 9.65 inches
- Publisher : Little, Brown and Company; Canadian First Edition (September 25, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #247,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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"The cat, a ginger one--they were the worst type of cat, in Juliet's opinion--had jumped up on the desk and bitten her--quite sharply, so that she couldn't help but give a little yelp of pain. It then proceeded to roll around on the desk before rubbing its face on the microphone and purring so loudly that anyone listening must have thought there was a panther loose in the studio, on that was very pleased with itself for having killed a woman."
The humor was honestly delightful. However, with all of that being said, I did struggle to connect with Juliet for quite a few more chapters than I usually like. She was very distant to me. There wasn't anything that really gripped me about her one way or the other, until her far more subtle character finally started shining through... So that made it a bit difficult to engage with the story for a long time. And then as other reviews have mentioned, there are some pacing problems. I really dislike books that are full speed ahead until a certain turning point in the book, not close enough to the end, and then they suddenly swap over to a slower pace. Which was very much the case with this book. There were twists I didn't see coming at all, and I absolutely LOVE that, but I felt I would have enjoyed it slightly more had the pacing issues been worked out.
Overall though, I'm very much not sorry I read it. It was another fantastic novel by Ms Atkinson! Not quite my favorite of hers, if you know what I mean, but well worth the purchase!!!
Top reviews from other countries
That's not to say there aren't moments of high tension, and the threat certainly becomes more pronounced and serious in the second half of the book. The theme of identity runs throughout: most of the characters, especially Juliet herself, are juggling more than one persona at a time, with various secrets and loyalties attached to each one...but which are false and which of them is real? Is it even possible to distinguish?
I always enjoy Kate Atkinson's writing, and this was no exception. Highly recommended.
How disappointing it was though. It's split across different time periods as her previous books have been but here it felt like it was being done out of habit rather than to creatively tell the story. Most disappointing were the characters though, none of them came to life, and I didn't care about them at all.
Give this one a miss.
That’s the other element of transcription and its major flaw. There are gaps in the typed record created by Juliet and there are also gaps in the story. Transcription is not perfect and overlooks elements of purpose and motivation. It gets worse when the gaps may be deliberately incorporated. So, most of the characters work for MI5 and none of them are quite what they seem. Godfrey Toby is talking to a man in an Astrakhan coat, Peregrine Gibbons, call me Perry, could be anyone but is certainly self-deceiving when it comes to his sexuality. Oliver Alleyne might be working for anybody as well and Juliet doesn’t trust him but that might be because she’s working for somebody else too. At least the German fifth columnists are fairly straightforward and there’s a dog which is loyal to whoever owns it at the time.
Juliet moves from transcription to infiltration because it seems to be part of the job and becomes involved with joining and exposing a right-wing group. It ends badly with the group under arrest but that may have been the plan all along. Who knows?
The story jumps about between wartime, the early 1950s and 1981. In the 1950s, Juliet is working for the BBC in schools broadcasting. I liked this side of the novel which is well observed with rather odd people doing things which they think are appropriate for children without very much idea of what that might be but, then, the old wartime loyalties and events start to intrude. It turns out that Juliet is still working for MI5, running a safe house and then someone with secrets who is passing through the safe house gets lost and everything comes apart. Juliet is lucky to escape with her life.
It was this last section I wasn’t entirely satisfied with. The dénouement baldly tells you that everything you thought so far is just a transcription and the truth lies somewhere else or in between. Maybe I needed a few more clues along the way!
One thing to note about the book is how authentic it is – well researched and reflecting the state of British intelligence, both in wartime and afterwards where everyone was spying on everybody and there were many divided loyalties. Kate Atkinson has rooted around in some interesting sources to create this story so the narrative itself becomes a kind of transcription, a palimpsest, an overheard conversation about what was really happening. And, maybe, that’s all we get – even today – and that’s one of the lessons of the book.
It’s well written. It reminded me in some ways of William Boyd’s ‘Waiting for Sunrise’ which also has deception written into the core and it’s an enjoyable read. Perhaps, if you knew the ending was going to be different you might spot the clues on the way but there would still be a lot of red herrings – mostly working for MI5!