Kate Atkinson's just released novel, Transcription? Brilliant! Mesmerizing! Incredibly clever! Uh huh - that good!
Juliet is 18 years old in 1940. She is recruited into the murky world of MI5 as a transcriptionist. She puts to paper the recordings of British Fascist sympathizers. 1950 - the war is over and Juliet is now working for the BBC. She assumes she has left the past where it belongs, but it's not to be.......
Juliet is such a great lead character. I adored her spunk and her acerbic sense of humour. Her naivete about some things makes her all the more human, likeable and believable.
Atkinson's plotting is intricate, richly detailed and so well done. There is no way to predict where the story was going to go, what would happen next and what the final pages would bring. It's a joy to be completely surprised by a story. Atkinson only slowly reveals an 'event' that happened at the end of Juliet's MI5 career. I was so curious to find out what that was - and how it affected the present in 1950. And the ending? Caught me completely unawares!
"And together they had committed a hideous act, the kind of thing that binds you to someone for ever, whether you like it or not."
Atkinson's plot found inspiration in National Archive releases - transcripts of an actual WWII agent's infiltration of Fascist support organizations. I loved the historic details of dress, settings, mores etc. of the time period. It was so easy to imagine the little apartment where Juliet toiled. And ten years on, her time at the BBC is just as vividly drawn.
I mentioned Juliet's acerbic sense of humour. I laughed out loud many times - her inner dialogue is so sharp and witty. The descriptions of the BBC players, writers and programming are 'dreadfully' clever. As are Atkinson's prose. She is truly a gifted wordsmith.
And that flamingo? What a great cover! It's mentioned in the latter half of the book and pivotal to the plot....
If you've read Atkinson before, you know you're in for a treat. And if you haven't - I can't recommend her books enough! Read an excerpt of Transcription.