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2018
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A BBC radio producer finds herself targeted by dangerous individuals from her past as a World War II espionage monitor for MI5. By the author of Life After Life. 150,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

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.
- (Grand Central Pub)

Author Biography

Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was named England's Whitbread Book of the Year in 1996. Since then, she has written nine more ground-breaking, bestselling books, most recently A God in Ruins. She lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. - (Grand Central Pub)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* As in her sublime Life after Life (2013), Atkinson again jumps between different periods in the mid-twentieth century to tell the story of a singular Englishwoman trapped in the vice of history. In 1940, during the "phony war," 18-year-old Juliet Armstrong is a well-read, if somewhat naive, young woman, "more concerned with the introduction of meat rationing" than with the coming of the real war, "the one where you might be killed." Even her work, transcribing conversations between an MI5 agent and various fifth columnists, seems oddly unthreatening, given the dim-witted ordinariness of these comically British would-be traitors, obsessed with their numerous "biscuit breaks." But then, suddenly, it doesn't seem ordinary anymore. What happens in 1940 to change Juliet's view of the world is revealed gradually, as Atkinson jumps from wartime London to 1950 and Juliet's postwar life as a radio producer for the BBC. Often, when writers attempt to tell two related but different stories, the reader picks a favorite and loses interest in the other. That's never the case here. Atkinson is a masterful narrative strategist, linking her two stories by the appearance in Juliet's postwar world of figures from her MI5 days and the suggestion that she is now at risk for what happened then.This is a novel full of surprises—Juliet is far more complex than she seems at first—but also one full of indelible characters, both at MI5 and the BBC, as Atkinson never fails to take us beyond an individual's circumstances to the achingly human, often-contradictory impulses within. And, as all of Atkinson's readers know, she is an exquisite writer of prose, using language with startling precision whether she is plumbing an inner life, describing events of appalling violence, or displaying her characters' wonderfully acerbic wit. Evoking such different but equally memorable works as Graham Greene's The Human Factor (1978) and Margaret Drabble's The Middle Ground (1980), this is a wonderful novel about making choices, failing to make them, and living, with some degree of grace, the lives our choices determine for us. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

A multi-award-winning MBE widely beloved for her literary-with-an-edge writing, Atkinson here opens with 18-year-old Juliet Armstrong working in MI5 in 1940 to track the movements of British Fascist sympathizers. A decade later, when she's a BBC radio producer, her past intelligence activities come back tohaunt her.

Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Library Journal Reviews

Is it ever possible to transcend the choices of the past? In this superb new novel from Atkinson (A God in Ruins), it's 1940 when Juliet Armstrong is recruited into the British intelligence service, MI5. She supports an operation by transcribing recorded meetings between a British agent, posing as a member of the Gestapo, and British Nazi sympathizers. At 19 and somewhat naïve but with considerable wit and intelligence, she is soon entangled in espionage, undertaking an active role in the operation and bringing several traitors to justice. When the war ends, Juliet leaves MI5 for the BBC, first in Manchester, and then in London, where she produces programs for the emerging schools educational service in 1950. As Juliet's life tantalizingly unfolds, it becomes apparent that she has made some very provocative choices during the war, and that absolutely nothing is as it seems. VERDICT With a fascinating cast of characters, careful plotting, and lyrical language in turns comical and tragic, Atkinson's complex story carefully unveils the outer demands and inner conflicts that war inflicts on people. A delight for fans of A.S. Byatt and Ian McEwan. [See Prepub Alert, 3/12/18.]—Penelope J.M. Klein, Fayetteville, NY

Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

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