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 sympathisers, 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 for ever.
Ten years later, now a 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 realise 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 this country’s most exceptional writers.
‘A fine example of Kate Atkinson’s mature work’ – Observer
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson in conversation with Susan Orlean at Live Talks Los Angeles
Kate Atkinson talks to Simon from Savidge Reads about Transcription
Kate Atkinson discusses Transcription at a Politics and Prose event at St. Paul's Lutheran Church
A fine example of Kate Atkinson’s mature work, an unapologetic novel of ideas which is also wise, funny and paced like a thriller.
Full of beautiful, delicate, sharp sentences and characterisations. A spy novel that dismantles the whole genre. A class act, as ever.
Never loses its sense of absurdity of human beings even in their most tragic or noble moments…How vehemently most novelists will wish to produce a masterpiece as good.
There are plenty of twists and turns in this terrific page-turner, some shocking moments, and a narrator whom the author encourages us to love.
A new Kate Atkinson novel is always a reason to rejoice and Transcription was everything I was hoping for and more…The truly surprising denouement makes for one of the best conclusions of a novel I’ve ever read. I immediately wanted to read it all over again.
A treat – cerebral and suspenseful, playful and empathetic.
Mail on Sunday
A triumph…inventive, atmospheric and witty.
Full of intrigue…sublimely suspenseful – droll, devious and deadly, beautifully serious.
Atkinson’s poker-faced narration perfectly serves a twisty tale of innocence lost amid a fog of geopolitical double-dealing, framed with a deadly tragedy.
No other contemporary novelist has such supreme mastery of that sweet spot between high and low, literary and compulsively readable as Kate Atkinson. I look forward to a new Atkinson book like I look forward to Christmas…what lends the novel enchantment is that patented Atkinson double whammy: gravity and levity. Tragedy and comedy as so skilfully entwined that you find yourself snorting with mirth…brimming with dark wit that reminds you how deeply satisfying good fiction can be.
Superb…Transcription is the sort of book that reminds you how profound and satisfying and moving and exhilarating good fiction can be. It’s the best novel I’ve read all year. I can’t praise it enough.
Atkinson handles her mazy, Le Carre-style plot with complete authority. But there’s a lot more to the novel than its page-turning thrills. The increasingly sceptical Juliet makes for a very appealing heroine and the darker material is interspersed with some neat comedy. Above all, Atkinson recreates the atmosphere of both wartime and post-war London with utter conviction.
[A] superb story of wartime espionage…Hilary Mantel once said of Atkinson’s ground-breaking first novel that she had a “game-plan more sophisticated than Dickens”, and that skill is more than evident in this latest offering…remarkable…Transcription is a fine course in the art of deception. The sheer bravura of Atkinson’s storytelling is such that you will find it impossible not to want to revisit those clues so cleverly placed, as you shake your head in disbelief at how effortlessly you have been taken in.
Times Literary Supplement
Kate Atkinson’s fluid identity as a novelist has long marked her out as one of Britain’s most interesting – and often underrated – writers…the playful always stands shoulder to shoulder with the painful, the grandiose with the grubby…Atkinson’s depiction of espionage and counter-espionage on the Home Front is nimble and convincing…But there is an immensely serious book here too, waiting in the wings to reveal itself on the very last pages; a book that asks us to question the entertainment we’ve just gobbled up, and to reckon with what lies beneath it.