A quintessentially British Spy Novel: Transcription by Kate Atkinson


I wasn’t a fan of Kate Atkinson’s acclaimed novel Life After Life and was hesitant to try this, but after seeing the praises I couldn’t resist the temptation of asking the publisher for a copy. So glad I was seduced by the Flamingo… This was an amazing read.

2018 has been a summer of good books, definitely. Transcription is no exception and it’s the most ‘appropriately consistent’ book I have read this year. Not a spare/unnecessary sentence or word in it, it’s so neatly written. Hats off to Kate Atkinson.

This is a novel that will take you to 40’s and 50’s, it’s quintessentially British in all levels. I haven’t read a more satirical, sharp, enjoyable book that takes place in WW2 so far. Atkinson knows her history. WW2 era is clearly something she excels in, as we’ve also seen in her former books. Storytelling takes us through the war-ridden London with ease. The setting, the events, the conversation, the characters in this book, are all very well crafted and I found this book an absolute reading joy, can’t recommend enough if you’re fan of books that are related to historical genre or, generally all things British, related to spies, and WW2.

I’ve started spotting the Flamingo everywhere since I read this book. Adoring the cover art!

The female heroine, Juliet Armstrong, or Miss Armstrong as she’ll be called throughout the story, is barely 18 years old in 1940, when she gets recruited by the secret service/espionage. Inside a London flat, they  listen secretly recorded conversation and type those onto the paper. She enters a world that’s seemingly adventurous,  a world of spies, recording/transcripting, double agents, Nazi sympathisers, communists, lies and deception.

There is also an alternate timeline, in 1950, the war is over and Juliet is working for BBC. The pieces missing from 1940’s story is unexplained as we move forward in 50’s timeline, and the timelines are braided  into each other, giving us breadcrumbs of information to find out what happened.

Undeniably convincing, Transcription is a brilliant  novel, one of the best about World War 2 period. The mocking tone of Atkinson, her sharp observations, her glass cut characters are all work of excellent literary craftsmanship and I would really be surprised if I don’t see this book on next year’s Booker, or Women’s Prize long lists.

Big, chunky 5 stars.


Thanks for Penguin for sending me a copy of this book.


  1. Glad you enjoyed this – I’ve been trying to decide whether to buy it or not, but you might have just swung it in the favour of yes! Great review 🙂


  2. Does anyone know what the publisher’s font is? I bought it on Kindle and there’s no option for a publisher’s font with this book. Cheers.


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