Transcription by Kate Atkinson

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Book Review of Transcription by Kate Atkinson

When I searched the book bin at the grocery store, I found The Librarian Spy, which I reviewed a few days ago. I also found Transcription by Kate Atkinson. Two spy books? Yes, please! I took both books with me on my trip to Belize. I read The Librarian Spy first, and I loved it. That made me super excited to read Transcription. Were my expectations met? Did I like Transcription as much as I liked The Librarian Spy? Keep reading my review to find out!


A dramatic story of WWII espionage, betrayal, and loyalty, by the #1 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.

My Book Review:

I felt like this book started off ok. I liked the premise of the story; it intrigued me, for sure. Juliet Armstrong is hired as an 18-year-old to work for MI5 as a spy. She sits in a room and transcribes conversations from the bugs in the room next-door. Who is MI5 listening to? They’re listening to Nazi sympathizers.

It’s quite brilliant, actually, and it is based on a real situation. You get one person to pose as a big-wig Nazi and all the sympathizers go to him and talk to him about their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. They think they’re talking to a real Nazi who will relay their ideas and thoughts to Hitler. That way you get all the info. and the real Nazis don’t. Transcribing all day long, everyday seemed like very boring work, though! I would not want Juliet’s job. The men she worked with seemed fine. To me it seemed like a good cause to work for.

My problem was that I didn’t care. I didn’t care about Juliet or the job they were doing. You’d think a woman spy would make a great character, but I just didn’t care about her at all. She’s naïve and a little witty, but I never related to or cared about her. As a spy, you think you’d worry about her safety or her interests. Nope. Not at all.

I found her 1950s situation kind of confusing. Very confusing, actually. I didn’t care at all about the BBC or its innerworkings.

I didn’t care about any of her 1940s coworkers, either. Some of them were more interesting than others, but…meh. They were there. They were fine.

It was just…boring. Kind of interesting, but boring. I didn’t find anything or anyone to grab onto or care about. The story moved slowly, and I am good with that if I like the writing and the descriptions and the characters. Sadly, I didn’t feel any of that in this book.

The “twist” at the end came out of the blue and I was super confused. I went back and reread it and I still didn’t get it. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to understand (which is totally plausible), but the whole thing just didn’t make sense and it made me mad. I just read this whole kind of boring book and the ending didn’t make sense and was anticlimactic.

One more thing–what does the cover art have to do with anything?? Seriously. Transcription is the first book I’ve read by Kate Atkinson. I’ve heard good things about her, but I don’t know if I’ll read any of her other books.

Content Rating PG-13

Content Rating: PG-13

  • Profanity: None
  • Intimacy: Low (There are a few innuendoes and a scene where one character thinks it might happen so there are thoughts about it.)
  • Violence: Moderate (There is a murder.)

Age Recommendation: 16+


My Rating: 2/5




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