Kate Atkinson's Transcription is a strange little book. Although the novel opens in 1950, we are quickly thrust back to 1940, when eighteen-year-old Juliet begins working for a branch of MI5. She is idealistic, but aware that she doesn't always meet her own standards.
She has recently lost her mother, and a sense of abandonment is part of her personality. She is also young and longing for romance and excitement.
Her job as a transcriptionist, however, is boring, but when she does have the opportunity to become more involved, Juliet realizes there is still plenty of dull mixed in with the tension and danger.
Most of the book is slow and anything but a thriller, and Atkinson probably did this on purpose. There is sly humor throughout, especially the kind of bitter/sweet/amusing sections with Juliet imagining the possibility of romance with the wrong man.
When the war is over, Juliet moves on with her life and by 1950 is a radio producer with the BBC. She discovers that the past is not always past.
An overarching theme of deception, duplicity, and the masks people wear permeates the novel. Some of the references are obvious, some made me curious about different applications, but I was not expecting one central duplicity. In the concluding chapters, the suspense mounts (finally), and traitors are revealed.
I admit that I found a majority of the novel slow and despite the fact that the slow pace is intentional and despite the many amusing and witty comments and scenarios, I felt myself wading through three quarters of the book waiting for...something. But that something arrived, and the conclusion and the Author's Note which follows made everything worthwhile.
Transcription is a curious book. It is not a thriller, as you might expect, but it is book that ambushed me at the end and one I can't quit thinking about.
Read in August. Blog review scheduled for Sept. 9.
NetGalley/Little, Brown, and Company
Historical Fiction/Espionage. Sept. 25, 2018. Print length: 352 pages.