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Transcription

A Novel
Narrated by: Fenella Woolgar
Length: 11 hrs and 9 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1,072 ratings)
Regular price: $29.65
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Publisher's Summary

A dramatic story of WWII espionage, betrayal, and loyalty, by the number one best-selling author of Life After Life. 

In 1940, 18-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.  

©2018 Kate Atkinson (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"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." (Booklist, starred review)

"There is intrigue. There are surprises. But the unknowns aren't always what we think they are. The deepest pleasure here, though, is the author's language. As ever, Atkinson is sharp, precise, and funny.... Another beautifully crafted book from an author of great intelligence and empathy." (Kirkus, starred review)

"If you loved Atkinson's Life After Life, you're in luck. If you're one of the, say, five people who didn't read it: You're still in luck - Atkinson is a master at the top of her game. A quiet, moving portrait of a guy navigating life's small pleasures and painful failures." (Marie Claire)

"Fenella Woolgar's masterful narration transforms Juliet Armstrong into a friend who is confiding a lifetime of secrets.... Woolgar's interpretations of Juliet's wry asides and commentary, peppered throughout the text, are hilarious, and she convincingly portrays a broad cast of characters, from plucky Cockney-accented errand boys to elderly women conspiratorially sharing their shocking views. Woolgar's melodious voice and dry wit carry listeners through the decades as Juliet's secrets race to catch up with her." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A very satisfying two days!

The Jackson Brodie series introduced me to Kate Atkinson, and I confess I live in hope of more Jackson. Having said that, I will add that I always read and recommend anything by Kate Atkinson.
I listened to Transcription pretty much non-stop for two days. It’s that good. My only issue was in keeping the many characters, and their relationships to Juliet, in order in my head. I had to back up a few times to remind myself who did what. Some days I can barely recall my friends’ names, so take that with a grain of salt. There were a couple of dangling threads in the story that nagged at me but were tied up in the denouement, causing a mental Ahhh! So gratifying.
Unlike another reviewer, I think Fenella Woolgar performed beautifully! I had no trouble understanding her and will now search for more books performed by her. I like her as an actress and she was an ideal reader for this book.
While in my doctor’s waiting room, I read the People Magazine review. The words, witty, sassy, and hilarious(ly) were used in the review, which made me wonder if the book was actually read by the reviewer. The humor is of the dry, British kind, which I like, but if there was hilarity, I missed it somehow. Personally, I would describe Juliet as gutsy, rather than sassy.
All in all, a very satisfying read.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful reader, marvelous story

I’m a big fan of Kate Atkinson — I’ll read the phone book if she wrote it. Here she delves into England’s MI5 just before WWII, and a young woman typist turned spy. Not quite a thriller — more slow and steady. But the narrator is soooooo good that you can’t stop listening. Definitely worth your time.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Listening made it come alive

Narrator was great. There were a number of times throughout the story that I hoped it would wrap up soon but I could never opt out.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Dystopian and depressing, but still rings true

Generally, I love Kate Atkinson and have read all her previous novels. I was looking forward to this one but I cannot give it a good review. It does a brilliant job of illuminating the boring and humdrum work of international espionage and the way the people who get entrapped in that web are slowly destroyed. It clearly shows how the institutions we have created to "protect" us from those whom our leaders define as our enemies are willing to prey on alienated, impressionable people and to use them as pawns in their game without being at all concerned with the well being of those being used. Juliet is one of those pawns, spotted early on by her lack of family and support and her willingness to lie and do it well. While she starts out with patriotic ideals about helping the WWII war effort, once the war is over, the motives of the government are much more murky. No one is to be trusted to tell the truth, perhaps not even the narrator.

This is an anti-recruitment novel for the CIA, MI5, MI6, GRU, FIS and others. But the tedious and repetitive transcription sessions are mind numbing and the building atmosphere of paranoia is depressing and unpleasant. The naive main character is the perfect foil for the various predatory government spy agencies and their minions. It was painful to read. I simply did not enjoy the book.

21 of 25 people found this review helpful

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A wonderful narrator (both the protagonist and the text)

I love Atkinson, but she doesn’t quite stick the landing at this end of this novel. Still, the internal monologue of Juliet, the protagonist, is witty and rich enough to make me forget any narrative shortcomings. Love the audiobook narrator, she truly makes it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Great First Half

Atkinson got off to a great start but seemed to have lost her way toward the middle and the ending was kind of "so what."

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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The narration kept me going

I read Life After Life, it took me a bit to get into, so I thought I would give this one some time. With four hours left in an eleven hour book, I think that has been enough time, I give up. Just when I thought the story might grab me, it veered off in another direction. It went from mundane and tedious to mildly amusing at times.

I had to laugh when rereading the book description, " Juliette Armstrong under threat again". Seven hours in the only thing she has been under threat from so far is being bored to death. I had to keep reminding myself she is very young and naïve, she doesn't realize she is nothing more than a pawn in an all male chess game. Now even years after the war, she is still being pushed around the board, blind to what is going on. After seven hours we still don't know what is going on, just some comment about " the horror to come". Which could mean the horror of the war to come.

In any case at this point I just don't care anymore. I could not find myself liking Juliette or any other character in the book for that matter. They all seemed to be rather one dimensional. The story just had no punch, the characters were not likeable, in so far as I got. In the end I just didn't want to waste four more hours of my life to find out if things suddenly picked up.

The only thing that kept me going at all was the narration. Fenella Woolgar is fantastic. You knew exactly who was speaking at all times, which is not easy to do with so many characters coming and going all the time. In the end however even that was not enough. I returned it unfinished.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • cristina
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 11-20-18

So disappointed!

I have absolutely loved every Kate Atkinson book, so I kept struggling through this one. Hoped against hope the characters would become real, the story more compelling. It felt like a short story that was stretched beyond its capabilities.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Doesn't propel

The narrator was very good but I didn't find the story line very compelling overall.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary
  • United States
  • 10-18-18

A gem

I really enjoyed this book. I always enjoy Atkinson’s prose. Ending is a bit vague but I think going on to develop more details would have taken away from the overall impact of Juliet’s wartime and coming of age experience.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful