Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Transcription” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.49  ·  Rating details ·  46,305 ratings  ·  5,912 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Little, Brown and Company (first published September 6th 2018)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Transcription, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Marge Heger Not at all. She is naive, of course. But, for her times, probably not remarkably so. I found her bright, funny and easy to believe in. She lived in an…moreNot at all. She is naive, of course. But, for her times, probably not remarkably so. I found her bright, funny and easy to believe in. She lived in an age when there is so much to be angered by and it's far scarier than ours. The are parallels that ice this cake. I loved Juliet. I love all of her novels. This is one of the best.(less)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  46,305 ratings  ·  5,912 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Transcription
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing

It’s funny how some books can immediately grab hold of you and cast you under their spell. This is that sort of book. The book immediately transports you back to London in the 1940s and 50s. The language is just spot on perfect.

The story revolves around a young woman who is drafted to transcribe conversations among a group of fascists that have been infiltrated by MI5. Juliet is only 18 and before she knows it, has been drafted for some spying in addition to her transcription duties.

Atkinson d
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library
2 oh my disappointing stars.

I do like Atkinson's novels so when this one popped up, I was anxious to begin turning pages. Unfortunately the anticipation for this novel went south as I become bogged down in a uneven plot, and the flipping of time elements. This is a book I should have loved. It had everything, World War 2, a strong intelligent woman, espionage, London, all the things that make for a poignant novel. So, what went wrong?

For me, I just could not connect with any of the characters. T
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2018-completed
As this novel opens, it is 1981, Juliet Armstrong is 60 years old, and while she was distracted by her thoughts, she was struck by a car when she attempted to cross the street. Her story comes through in a series of jumps between 1940 and 1950 before landing back in 1981 again.

In 1940 at the tender age of 18, Juliet is recruited by MI5 to work on transcribing taped conversations between one of MI5’s agents disguised as a subversive and several informants. There are short excerpts from these tran
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great historical fiction in the world of British espionage in WW2 and the repercussions that emerge in the 1950s. Touches on issues of class in spying circles, being gay, the monitoring of fascists, a young Juliet, recruited to engage in the process of transcription that develops into so much more. Then some time after the war, Juliet is now a BBC radio producer and sees a familiar face that refuses to acknowledge her leading to the entry of a host of familiar figures from the past. There are so ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not all of Kate Atkinson’s novels have been what she calls historical fiction, but the last several have been. This novel may hew closest to the truth, though like she says in the Author’s Note at the end, she wrenched open history and stuffed it with imaginative reconstruction, at least one fantasy for each fact.

The author tells us afterward what her intentions were: we have questions—that’s inevitable—and instead of farming out possible answers to various reviewers, she’s just blunt with us w
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Juliet is adorably clueless. The spy-guys stuffy and charadesque. All of them: So. Very. British. (Or it could be just me stereotyping the world, if so, then I'm sorry!)
The humour appropriately dry. The atmosphere noirish, just a bit, to add in enough grit and some patina of time that feels to have passed between the reader and the plotline origins.
Just what I love to read occasionally.

PS. Mangling Russian dishes didn't improve the novel. By 'Verushka' a 'vatrushka' probably was meant. Took me
Amalia Gkavea
''In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.''
Winston Churchill

1950. Juliet is a BBC producer, responsible for the children's zone. Intelligent, energetic and a talented writer, she tries to make History interesting for the young ones. She should know, for her relationship to the Lady with the Book that chronicles the course of the human race has been extremely turbulent. If we travel back in time, in 1940 specifically, we'll see Juliet reluc
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical

I am having a really bad historical fiction year (looking at you Washington Black). So I was absolutely convinced that dropping all my reading commitments to immediately pick up Kate Atkinson's new WWII spy novel would help raise my spirits. Her previous books Life after Life and A God in Ruins are favourites of mine. I trust her to a deliver a distinct kind of uber- British novel, complete with her rather sardonic humour and droll observations.
All of these Atkinson-isms are here, at leas
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Juliet Armstrong is only eighteen years old when she is recruited by the M15 in 1940. She is tasked with transcribing the conversations of British fascists sympathizers during WWII. Before long, she is given more duties such as working as a spy herself and watching a dog which is being held for a sort of ransom. Ten years later she finds herself working for the BBC as a radio producer. She appears to have moved on with her life until those from her past come back, reminding her that one can neve ...more
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“May I tempt you?” This question is the impetus which shifts a very young woman from a job merely transcribing traitorous conversations deliberately overheard during WWII in London into a bonafide spy. Working at the BBC ten years, later her misdeeds of the past come back to haunt her. For a novel about espionage, I found the characters to be rather dull and the plot lacking in tension.
Atkinson is one of my favorite authors and, with Transcription, she has moved her star even higher. The tale is set in England, primarily London, in 1940, 1950 and 1981. The pivotal events occur in 1940, when Juliet Armstrong at 18, is recruited for the war effort. But not for any battle-related job, no. She is to file and type. Soon she is recruited further as a transcriptionist for an MI5 developed cause, to reel in and control English Fifth Column citizens, those who sympathize with the Nazis ...more
Violet wells
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just what I needed! I've struggled with various very long and overwrought novels of late. Transcription on the other hand is breezy and wry and thoroughly entertaining. A light hearted romp through the world of espionage in London during world war two. I had a sense of déjà vu through much of the novel, as if I had seen a documentary about the events Atkinson was writing about- essentially a secret service operation set up in a flat eavesdropping on the conversations of a motley crew of Nazi sym ...more
Ova - Excuse My Reading
PLease see full review on my blog.

I wasn't a fan of Kate Atkinson's 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.

This is a book 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. This piece of history is clearly something Atkinson excels in, she takes us through the war-ridden London
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is always a pleasure to open a new book by Kate Atkinson. I know I am going to find something well written, totally absorbing and above all original. How she does it I do not know.

In Transcription she takes us to 1940 World War 2 London, where we meet Juliet, an eighteen year old girl who has just been recruited by MI5. There is a lot more to this Juliet than meets the eye and she continued to surprise me right through to the end of the book.

Atkinson writes splendid characters, especially the
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
EXCERPT: 'Are you . . . intact, Miss Armstrong?'

'Intact?' She had to think for a moment what he meant by that. (She thought of the Latin. Untouched.) 'Oh,' she said eventually. 'Yes, sir.' She blushed all over again, dreadfully hot suddenly, despite the weather. It wasn't a question you asked if you weren't intending to do something about it, was it? Although in her imagination this act had involved dim lighting, satin sheets, perhaps flutes of champagne and a discreet veil drawn over the crude
“Charles had ‘trod the boards’ until his leg was blown off in the Café de Paris bomb in ’41 and he could tread no more. Now he had an artificial leg that you could never mistake for a real one. It made people kind to him, although there was no real reason why they should be as he was the waspish sort and it was doubtful that losing a leg had improved him.”

1950. This is a classic Kate Atkinson description, accurate and sarcastic at the same time. Charles Lofthouse is part of the BBC’s Schoo
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderful mix of spies, counterspies, life in wartime London and the inner workings of the BBC. It's written from the point of view of Juliet Armstong, an intelligent young woman who was recruited by the British Security Service when she was 18. After a while her chief task became the transcribing of secretly-taped conversations between an MI5 agent (posing as a member of the Gestapo) and some English Fifth Columnists who were eager to help the Nazi cause. After the war, Juliet wo ...more
Peter Boyle
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Oh I had high hopes for this one. A Kate Atkinson spy novel set during World War II sounded like a winning formula to me. Indeed, the reviews of Transcription have been full of praise. But I reckon it is one of her lesser works, not reaching the heights of Life After Life or the majestic A God in Ruins.

In 1941, Juliet Stephenson is 18 years old, naive and unsophisticated. Everything changes when she is recruited by MI5. Her new job consists of listening to the recorded conversations of Nazi symp
Diane Barnes
Sep 29, 2018 rated it liked it
In not a big fan of spy novels, just not my genre, so maybe that was my problem with this book. I really expected to be blown away because, after all, it IS Kate Atkinson, but I never really connected with the main character, or any other character. I truly didn't care what happened to them, and it felt like only half my brain was engaged while reading. Having said that, there were some surprising twists and turns at the end, but, again, I just didn't care. ...more
Canadian Reader
Espionage would probably not make my top ten list of things to read about, or even my top 100 list for that matter, so I approached Transcription with a certain wariness. The fact that it is authored by Kate Atkinson was probably the only thing that motivated me to read it in the first place.

The novel opens in 1981, “the year of a royal wedding,” with 60-year-old Juliet Armstrong falling down on a London street. Preoccupied with thoughts of her 26-year-old son and having lived abroad for many ye
Jessica Woodbury
If you've only read a couple of Kate Atkinson novels, you may think she does just one thing. She doesn't. In fact, I tend to get a little miffed when she sticks with one thing for too long because I want to see her stretch out in every direction. When I started TRANSCRIPTION and realized we were back in WWII (major setting of her last two novels) I thought, "Nooooooooo not again," but I couldn't have been more wrong. This isn't a follow-up to LIFE AFTER LIFE or A GOD IN RUINS in any significant ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
I loved this World War II British espionage thriller! In 1940, Juliet Armstrong is recruited by MI5 to transcribe recorded meetings between undercover MI5 agents and traitorous British citizens who are secretly spying for Germany. England is on the brink of war as Hitler’s forces consume Europe. Juliet is eventually drawn into active spy duty, playing a role as a young German sympathizer working in the War Office. Her job is to infiltrate the Right Club, a small group of antisemitic and fascist ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Who knew that spycraft could be so boring? Atkinson’s historical fiction novel is based on a composite of actual double-agents that worked for MI5 during WWII to uncover Third Reich devotees. Eighteen-year-old Juliet takes a job of transcribing conversations that are being recorded from bugs in the next room. Atkinson feels compelled to provide the reader with typical disjointed conversations—bugs in the 1940s were not able to pick up as much as ones today. The result seems like gibberish. But, ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Dec 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Uugh, I haven't felt so tortured and bored by by book since I tried to read Hausfrau.
9731 ratings and 4113 are 3 stars or less. Halfway through I had to look through them for some closure and encouragement to let this one go. My day is about to get better.
Nov 15, 2018 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I tried....I really, really tried. I hung in there 'til the halfway mark but I'm packing it in. Such a disappointment as I've enjoyed other books by this author & heard rave reviews about this one. It's probably just a simple mismatch between reader & book. Not finishing a book always makes me feel like I missed something but I wasn't enjoying myself & with so many other books to read, I'm waving the white flag. On to the next one.... ...more
I was immediate swept away listening to this book on audio. Kate Atkinson’s writing transports me into another world and I have the utmost respect and admiration for her as a writer.
Transcription has a narrower focus than many of her novels but weaves together so many themes. It also had some of her funniest lines and I often found myself laughing aloud (not something one generally experiences while reading a book set during war time) Juliet was an interesting narrator, very real and believabl
Cindy Burnett
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

Kate Atkinson's new novel, Transcription, follows Juliet Armstrong as she works in an obscure MI-5 department during World War 2 that monitors and records the activities of a pro-German group. While the work is initially boring and monotonous, an event occurs that drastically alters the department's work and Juliet's job. Fast forward a decade later, and Juliet is now working for a BBC radio station believing that her past is long behind her. However, as Juliet soon learns, actions almo
Liz Barnsley
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of Kate Atkinson’s wonderful storytelling and for me Transcription was a pure joy from the moment I started it until the moment I reluctantly set it aside.
The writing is genuinely superb, beautifully done and I adored Juliet, her manner, her acerbic inner dialogue and her highly intriguing yet strangely genteel existence.
The setting and the time brought to utterly vivid life, we follow Juliet as she becomes part of the war effort, gets entangled in intrigue and faces unknowable c
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
[2.6] Most of this novel is analogous to Juliet's transcription work for M15 - dull and monotonous with brief moments of action. Most of the action came in the last 50 pages of the novel and I was so grateful for relief of the tedium that I am rounding up to 3 stars. ...more
I had trouble enjoying TRANSCRIPTION as I found it to be a bit tedious. The pace picks up a bit toward the end, but it was a bit too late for me. The story is about an 18 year old female recruited into M15 in 1940 to transcribe recording of English people who are German sympathizers. Perhaps this would be best enjoyed by lovers of spies.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Wirral Libraries ...: Transcription 1 3 Jan 10, 2021 04:39AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please correct page count - Transcription 2 9 Jan 11, 2020 06:48PM  
The Book Vipers: Group Fiction Read – Jul / Aug 2019 - Transcription 3 31 Jul 26, 2019 12:06AM  
questions about the plot (spoilers) 4 159 Jul 03, 2019 09:49AM  
Around the Year i...: Transcription, by Kate Atkinson 2 26 Jan 30, 2019 01:09PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Witch Elm
  • Unsheltered
  • Warlight
  • Hamnet
  • The Clockmaker's Daughter
  • Once Upon a River
  • Washington Black
  • The Lost Man
  • The Library Book
  • The Dutch House
  • Lethal White (Cormoran Strike, #4)
  • Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #14)
  • The Searcher
  • The Huntress
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road
  • Girl, Woman, Other
  • Milkman
See similar books…
Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories,

Articles featuring this book

The year is 1940, and Juliet Armstrong is on the trail of Nazi collaborators. Juliet isn't some high-living MI5 femme fatale; the protagonist of ...
52 likes · 13 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Do not equate nationalism with patriotism... Nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism.” 43 likes
“The future was coming nearer, one relentless goose step after the next. Juliet could still remember when Hitler had seemed like a harmless clown. No one was amused now. (“The clowns are the dangerous ones,” Perry said.)” 14 likes
More quotes…