Transcription by Kate Atkinson #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

transcription

 Transcription opens in 1981 when Juliet Armstrong is involved in an accident. As she lies on the ground, injured, her mind goes back to 1940 when she started work in the offices of MI5 and then to 1950 when she was a BBC schools programmes producer. A witty but unemotional protagonist she seems to be recounting events as they happened, but there are omissions, and can we really trust her testimony?

I loved this book, much preferring it to Life After Life. The story of how MI5 monitored Nazi sympathisers and the account of  the amoral social life of 1940 are fascinating. Juliet’s observations on a woman’s role, always making the tea but also sent out to risk her life on potentially dangerous missions without any training, reflect reality. At times, this novel made me laugh out loud, at others, it is tense and thrilling and always slightly puzzling. There are so many intriguing characters, from Peregrine Gibbons, so dapper but resisting her charms (Juliet’s naivety is believable) to Godfrey Talbot, the likeable double agent, via delightful Cyril, her hard-working companion in Dolphin Square and the tactless Daisy who is supposed to assist Juliet at the BBC.

As Juliet listens in to meetings between Godfrey and a group of fascist sympathisers her transcriptions are sketchy. Words are missing when the dog barks and we don’t have a complete picture of what is happening. This reflects Juliet’s story. She has the ability to lie easily, making her an effective spy and yet she cares deeply about the fate of a young maid who briefly helps her and who, like Juliet, is an orphan.

This is a deep novel with a light tone. It is interesting to read from the context of today’s politics and society. And if you are wondering, the flamingo on the cover is explained towards the end of the story. There has been criticism by some reviewers of the denouement in which we are told in a rapid summary how threads in the story linked and we learn more about Juliet’s motivation, but I am on the fence on this. It satisfied my queries but possibly could have been revealed more subtly. However, the texture and quality of the writing is so delightful I could happily read it all over again next week.

 Transcription is available atAmazon UK

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#FridayBookShare ~ Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson @ShelleyWilson72

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

Ever since I discovered Case Histories many years ago I have been a great fan of Kate Atkinson.  Emotionally Weird is one of her early books, set in Dundee, which I read appropriately while staying in Dundee, although that is not necessary.

First Line   My mother is a virgin (trust me) my mother Nora- A fiery Caledonian beacon- says she is untouched by the hand of man and is as pure as Joan of Arc or the snow on the Grampians.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

On a peat and heather island off the west coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the large mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories.

Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear, like who her father was – variously Jimmy, Jack, or Ernie. Effie tells of her life at college in Dundee, where she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom the Klingons are as real as the French and the Germans (more real than the Luxemburgers).

But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Why is everyone writing novels? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

Introduce the main character – Effie is an observer, a novelist, a wordsmith.

Delightful Design

emotionally-weird

Audience appeal  This might appeal to those who are familiar with Atkinson’s recent novels or more to those who like absurdity such as Flann O’Brien’s books.  You are taken back to 1970s student life.

Your Favourite Scene

I was sitting next to Terri- a black wolf prowling the night.  Terri’s assignment for Martha was poetry.  Terri’s poems came under the collective title My Favourite Suicide and you can probably imagine the content matter.  Some of them (although undoubtedly derivative) were surprisingly cheerful-

I drank the glass of

milk you left on the

bedside table. It was

sour, thank you

Martha was wearing a long cashmere plaid woven from the dull colours of infinity, that she had fixed, toga-style, with a claw of some bird, a grouse or a ptarmigan maybe, set with a purple amethyst.

Andrea was making a great show of sharpening her pencils and laying everything out on her little table while Kevin was staring at the space Olivia’s feet would have occupied if she had been there.

“I think we should begin with a little exercise to flex our writing muscles,” Martha said, speaking very slowly as if she was on prescription drugs but I think it was just her way of trying to communicate with people less intelligent than she thought she was.

“Write me a paragraph,” Martha enunciated clearly, in just 10 minutes, which incorporates these three word bractate, trowel and vilifies.”

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.