- Book of the Month
November in New England is about turkeys, family, vibrant foliage, and unexpected snow flurries. However, it’s never the wrong time for a spy novel about Nazis, broken families, and twist endings. “Transcription” by Kate Atkinson fits that classic spy genre while providing unique aspects that seem like a breath of fresh, crisp autumn air. For instance, we’re all familiar with James Bond or Jack Ryan, but how many action-spy female leads from novels can we name off the top of our heads. Even counting side characters, the amount of females that don’t fall to the cliche femme fatale who uses her appearance to win is shockingly low. That’s why the main character of “Transcription,” Juliet Armstrong, is so compelling in all her complexities and secrets. She gets frustrated at times, is annoyed by the condescending tone of men, and makes many violent mistakes.
Her realistic portrayal is even more intriguing due to the fact that the novel is set in Britain during World War II. The chapters jump between 1981, 1950, and 1940 in a way that keeps the reader always in the dark as they wait in anticipation for the full truth. Juliet joins MI5, the British equivalent of the CIA, as a typist but quickly gets recruited to work on bigger jobs. Throughout it all, she consistently acts like a real person; she is often tired and disgruntled, she gets a crush on a few men, and the writer even manages to give her unique idiosyncrasies that come to allow the reader to relate further with the character. The only downfall to this book is that occasionally the writing becomes unclear unless one is paying very close to attention. Taken in all though, this is a novel that reads like a ticking bomb as you wait for the final reveal of events.