Review: Transcription

Hitler was collecting countries like stamps. How long before he had the full set?

Oh, but August was a month. I got to read new books by two of my faves and pretty much spent the whole time being amazed at how lucky I am. The first was the new Patrick Gale which I talk about here, and the second was Kate Atkinson’s new novel, Transcription, which was published yesterday and which I am talking about right now.

I love Kate Atkinson. I’ve loved her since I first read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and I love her still. I love the Jackson Brodie novels, I loved Life After Life, the like of which I had never read before nor have I read since, and it’s follow up A God in Ruins and now, to add to that list, I love Transcription.

What I’ve been saying, mostly, since I finished it (and oh but I didn’t want to finish it) is that it’s so perfectly Kate Atkinson-y, which is a thing that makes little sense, unless you too are a Kate Atkinson fan, in which case I think you’ll get what I mean.

Kate Atkinson’s writing is on a level of it’s own and is somehow immediately recognisable, it’s writing that you can get lost in, layer built upon layer upon layer, masterfully crafted and infinitely readable and Transcription is such a good example of that.

It’s set, like A God in Ruins and Life After Life, in part, during WWII, but it is unlike either of those books, something new and entirely wonderful.

It’s about Juliet, recruited to the secret service at the start of the war and thus forced to lead this life of secret identities and half truths and dubious trust. Juliet is a marvel, honest, vulnerable, confident but not arrogant, a worryingly good liar but one with a conscience, clever and a little bit sassy – Atkinson’s characters are always so real – she’s got this way of seeing human nature and putting that on paper and Juliet is a prime example of that, funny too, in parts. The whole book, had moments where it made me laugh not just Juliet – being full of wry observations that have you chuckling out loud every now and then. It’s a really good character study, which honestly, is what I think Kate Atkinson does best – this 18 year old girl, alone in the world, drawn into this world of secrets where nothing is ever as it seems and the minimal information is fed to her by a team of people – mostly men – on a need to know basis. Is it as easy as it should be to leave your life behind, do as your told without asking questions and never know who you can trust?

This isn’t your typical spy novel, which I think is important – if you want Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy then this probably isn’t for you -  focussing  more on the people than the espionage than you might expect, but still, that doesn’t make it any less gripping, at times I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, at times I was just tense, which was fabulous actually, because despite the whole spy thing, Juliet has a strangely quaint life – afternoon tea and drives to the countryside and so all of that juxtaposed alongside the secret service storyline ticked so many of my boxes.

There’s also all these subtle side stories which I LOVED, even the supporting characters matter here and watching everything slowly unfold is nothing short of wonderful, things fall into place and sometimes hit you right in the chest ad everything, quite frankly, is marvellous.

This book is wonderful, and oh, but so very Kate Atkinson-y.

It was published yesterday, and you can get hold of  copy here.