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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.

343 pages, Hardcover

First published September 6, 2018

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About the author

Kate Atkinson

73 books10.5k followers
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, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,676 reviews
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
October 3, 2018
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. They were choppy figures that seemed to drift about as I wondered exactly why they did what they did. There really didn't seem to be much of a plot and though I am sure Ms Atkinson did her due diligence on the topic, it just fell ever so flat. It was hard for me to maintain attention and though I did skim a bit, and found myself adverse to continuing at times wishing and hoping it would get better.

So, for me this novel just didn't come together. I am hoping Ms Atkinson does continue to write for she does it so well.
Thank you to my local library for a copy of this book.

Profile Image for Liz.
2,147 reviews2,767 followers
September 18, 2018

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 displays a dry sense of humor. “It seemed she had acquired all the drawbacks of being a mistress and none of the advantages - like sex. (She was becoming bolder with the word if not the act.) For Perry, it seemed to be the other way around - he had all the advantages of having a mistress and none of the drawbacks. Like sex.” Poor Juliet is truly naive and I had to keep reminding myself how young she was. She keeps waiting for a romance the reader knows is never going to come.

The rest of the characters are equally well drawn. The pettiness, the certainty, all are brought out for our inspection.

This is not a fast paced book by any stretch. The writing is meant to be enjoyed, lots of beautiful phrasing. But there is a tension to the book and the ending wasn’t anything I saw coming. “Juliet had the sense that she was taking part in a farce, although not one that was particularly funny - in fact, not funny at all.” But it is, in its own weird way.

In this day and age, I’m never sure if I’m seeing symbolism where it doesn’t belong. But it seems fitting that Atkinson picks as her topic the problem of Fascism in England during WWII. “Do not equate nationalism with patriotism,” Perry warned Juliet. “Nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism.” Or this “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.)”

Make sure to read The Author’s Note. What is the nature of historical fiction?

There are some interesting ideas here, like what constitutes the real self. Or what’s worth fighting for. “This England”. It’s a book meant to be discussed.

My thanks to netgalley and Little, Brown for an advance copy of this novel.

Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,652 followers
December 30, 2018
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 transcriptions throughout the 1940 portions of the novel.

In 1950, the war is over, although the aftermath lingers. Especially in the world of MI5, where spying on whatever enemies exist continues. Juliet’s everyday life has changed, however. She is involved in the production of several radio programs for school children. However, as Juliet discovers, one is never entirely free of the spy business. Once a part of MI5, always a part of MI5. Maybe. Unless . . .

One of Juliet’s thoughts from 1981: The Russians had been their enemies and then they were their allies, and then they were enemies again. The Germans the same – the great enemy, the worst of all of them, and now they were our friends, one of the mainstays of Europe. It was all such a waste of breath. War and peace. Peace and war. It would go on forever without end.

Of the many things I have always admired about Kate Atkinson’s writing, one in particular stands out: how brilliant it is. We experience first-hand the intelligence and rapid-fire brain synapses of Juliet Armstrong right from the beginning. Although she is resigned to always being the one expected to clean up, to get the tea, and other “female tasks” like typing up the transcripts, her mind is always working at the speed of light and she both sees and knows far more than she would ever let on. And people notice.

The author’s notes at the end of this story are wonderful. Ms Atkinson describes where real situations and events from the war years are blended with the fictional story she is telling. It is virtually seamless, and if someone had said this is a true story, I wouldn’t question it for a moment.

This is an ingeniously plotted story, and I felt instant kinship with Juliet Armstrong – even at the same time that I was bowled over by her intellect. Her relationships with her fellow co-workers and those in the hierarchy above her were fascinating and had me feeling by turns loftier and humbled.

Although this is not what I would describe as a “funny book”, it was overflowing with humour and entertaining situations. I laughed out loud a few times, and I also felt sad a few times because there is also pathos here.

Kate Atkinson’s writing in this novel gave me a strong urge to immediately pick up another one of her books. Fortunately, I do have a few that I have not yet read, and I hope to read some of them in 2019. In the meantime, this finely crafted novel will have to hold me – and it definitely has the strength to do so.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,714 reviews25k followers
October 22, 2018
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 many great reviews on this, so I will limit myself to saying this is complex storytelling that I found thoroughly absorbing, enjoyable and immersive historical fiction.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,439 followers
June 24, 2018
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 what we’d been wondering about. There is something comparable in theatre, when the actors takes off their masks for the final bow and we all celebrate together.

Atkinson returns to the Second World War, periodic releases from the National Archives of secrets from that time fueling her creative process. When she discovers [true fact] an ordinary-seeming bank clerk was a major cog in rounding up British supporters of Nazis, her story had a frame. When she discovered [true fact] hundreds and hundreds of pages of transcripts of conversations of dissident groups in London, her story had a heart.

What Kate Atkinson does is not necessarily unique (using historical documents to create fiction), but what she does with it is unique. Her style, tone, and characters are recognizably hers. She is funny: one knows there are people out there whose droll delivery of witty responses to ordinary questions is quintessentially British but we don’t come across it enough. Atkinson can do repartee.

By now Atkinson may be incapable now of writing a straightforward fiction with a chronological timeline. This novel has only three time periods to work with and really only one central character, which simplifies the action enough that I only had to reread an earlier section once. This was partly due to my surprise, maybe a little resentment, and finally pleasure at being taken out of the action at what seemed like a critical moment…again! She’d done that to me in the previous section as well. I was burrowed in like a tick, and am yanked to a later, earlier, whatever time. Atkinson manages to satisfy and confound a reader at the same time.

Atkinson’s characters always have the ‘ghost of Jackson Brodie’ about them. This is a very good thing, considering how much we liked Brodie and wouldn’t mind having him resurrected. We could make the case that the main character in this novel, Juliet Armstrong, is a female Jackson Brodie—honest and therefore vulnerable, she doesn’t have so high an opinion of herself that she is insufferable. In the end she is well able to take care of herself. She’s smart, and a very good liar, but keeps herself a little distant. After all, who can one trust?

At eighteen, Juliet is parentless: "her mother's death had revealed that there was no metaphor too ostentatious for grief." Young and alone, Juliet was not, however, callow. She lied like crazy through a job interview with a flippant and overly-inquisitive young man who interviewed her for a job, which she was surprised she got. Later she learned he'd known every lie, and appreciated the ease with which she misled him.

This book is about spies, spies working in the service of the British government, or so we believe. What is special is that we see what is British about them—what is ordinary, patriotic, courageous, honorable. But we also see a nation at war and we see duplicity, hunger, ambition, pettiness. Then we lay over that the work of the other nations at war, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and a few exceptional people emerge alive, not unscathed, but breathing at the end. The tension comes when we are not sure who will remain standing.

Atkinson writes about the middle of the twentieth century, but she could be talking about the twenty-first:
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.”)


Do not equate nationalism with patriotism…Nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism.
One always senses the intelligence in Atkinson’s work. She not only writes a good story which means getting the humanity right, she makes us think while we read. She’s unpredictable. And frankly, I like her politics. It’s always a pleasure to enjoy another of her books.
July 8, 2020
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 ages to guess. Why the hell couldn't the writer just call it a pie or a cheese pie or a Russian cheese pie? The book gained no extra authenticity whatsoever from making it sound as if they were all eating someone called Vera (Faith!) in an endearing form!

I was beginning to think that you were lost.’
‘But now I am found,’ (c)
‘Joy is an admirable goal,’ Juliet said. ‘Completely unobtainable, of course.’ (c)
Older men of a certain type were drawn to her. They seemed to want to improve her in some way. Juliet was almost thirty and didn’t feel she needed much more improvement. The war had seen to that. (c)
... had been employed as an Announcer. It had a capital letter. (‘A woman!’ everyone said, as if they’d never heard a woman speak before.) (c)
The cat, a ginger one – they were the worst type of cat, in Juliet’s opinion – had jumped up on the desk and bitten her – quite sharply, so that she couldn’t help but give a little yelp of pain. It then proceeded to roll around on the desk before rubbing its face on the microphone and purring so loudly that anyone listening must have thought there was a panther loose in the studio, one that was very pleased with itself for having killed a woman. (c)
... forlornly earnest about even the most trivial things... (c)
Juliet supposed that any one of those things – the war, philosophy, Vienna – was capable of making you both forlorn and earnest, and perhaps badly dressed too ... (c)
Did she understand what that meant? ... It meant that she was about to lose the only person who loved her. She was seventeen and her grief for herself was almost as great as her grief for her mother. ... her mother’s death had revealed that there was no metaphor too ostentatious for grief. It was a terrible thing and demanded embellishment. (c)
Her mother had represented a form of truth for her, something that Juliet knew she had moved away from in the decade since her death. (c)
Inside each pearl there was a little piece of grit. That was the true self of the pearl, wasn’t it? The beauty of the pearl was just the poor oyster trying to protect itself. From the grit. From the truth. (c)
Thinking had always been her downfall. (c)
But wasn’t artistic endeavour the final refuge of the uncommitted? (c)
Juliet used to think that someone who seemed as ordinary as Godfrey Toby must be harbouring a secret – a thrilling past, a dreadful tragedy – but as time had gone by she’d realized that being ordinary was his secret. It was the best disguise of all really, wasn’t it? (c)
I should have followed him, she thought. But he would have lost her. He had been rather good at evasion. (c) Wow. Lovely phrase, it could mean both physical and intellectual stuff.
‘Do you like Beethoven, sir?’ she asked.
‘Not particularly,’ he said, seemingly puzzled by the question. ‘He makes for a good paperweight though.’ (c)
Choice, it seemed, was one of the first casualties of war. (c)
‘Juliet?’ the man said contemplatively. ‘As in Romeo and Juliet? Very romantic.’ He laughed as if this was some kind of private joke.
‘I believe it was actually a tragedy, sir.’
‘Is there a difference?’ (c)
She didn’t like that supercilious eyebrow and so she gave her unfathomable father a promotion. ‘An officer.’ (c)
… a Bedford bus pulled up in front of Juliet. …
The driver opened the door and shouted over to her, ‘MI5, love? Hop in.’ So much for secrecy, she thought. (c)
‘Oh, bad luck. I bet everyone’s always asking you where Romeo is. (c)
‘Well, Pa always said I’d end up behind bars.’
And that was how Juliet’s career in espionage began. (c)
It would be menials who would win this war, she thought, not girls in pearls. (c)
The Four Hundred, the Embassy, the Berkeley, the Milroy, the Astoria ballroom – there was no end to the entertainment to be had during a war. (c) I’ve a feeling I might know why Hitler went as far as he did, around the Europe.
… he spoke Swahili (What was the point of that, Juliet wondered? Unless you were a Swahili, of course) (c)
Juliet was waiting to be seduced by him. By anyone really, but preferably him. It was turning into a rather long wait. (c)
It seemed that she had acquired all the drawbacks of being a mistress and none of the advantages – like sex. (She was becoming bolder with the word, if not the act.) For Perry, it seemed to be the other way round – he had all the advantages of having a mistress and none of the drawbacks. Like sex. (с)
Juliet felt rather ashamed, as her mind had been on what dress to wear this evening rather than bottomless pits of evil. The war still seemed like a matter of inconvenience rather than a threat (c)
She imagined him creeping up on some poor unsuspecting hedgehog and giving it the fright of its life. (c)
‘Today is Friday, Miss Armstrong.’
‘All day, sir.’
‘And tomorrow is Saturday.’
‘It is,’ she agreed. Was he going to name all the days of the week, she wondered? (c)
The prospect of more tea was tedious, she had drunk enough with Mrs Scaife to sink HMS Hood. (c)
It was an analphabetic jumble, rather like being given an insight into the chaotic workings of a cat’s brain... (c)
‘Can I do something, sir?’ she asked.
‘You can’t help me,’ he said bleakly. ‘No one can.’
‘Are you having a spiritual crisis?’ she hazarded – tenderly, as seemed befitting for spiritual crises... (c)
Perry gave a wretched kind of sob and, unable to think of anything else, Juliet made a cup of tea and placed it silently on the carpet next to him, where he remained in supplication. She shut the door quietly and got on with her work. It turned out that discovering a man on his knees, weeping, was a surprisingly effective deterrent to romantic feelings about that man. (c)
...she plucked ‘Middlesbrough’ out of thin air. ‘Wonderful,’ she heard someone whisper. People always said they wanted the truth, but really they were perfectly content with a facsimile. (c)
‘You should know it,’ Hartley said. ‘Why don’t you know it?’
‘Perhaps because I don’t actually work for you any more, you know. You’re not even paying me, just expenses. And you’re obviously incompetent or I would know it.’ (c)
She feared that she was beginning to tread the wilder shores of her imagination. (c)
She didn’t feel she had the fortitude for all those Tudors, they were so relentlessly busy – all that bedding and beheading.
Did people hunt flamingos? It was a bird Juliet had never given any thought to and now it seemed to be perched on every corner. No, not perched – they didn’t perch, did they? Too big, probably. And the legs would be too long. You needed short legs for perching or you would be unbalanced, especially if you had a predilection for standing on one leg. Juliet sighed and wondered if one day she would think herself to death. (c)
She was dressed in an odd assortment of black garments, as if she had simply raided her wardrobe for everything in that colour and then piled it all on. She looked like a large, rather distressed bat.(с)
But then what constituted real? Wasn’t everything, even this life itself, just a game of deception? (c)
You had to ask yourself, which was better – to have sex with any number of interesting (albeit possibly evil) men (and some women too, apparently), to be glamorously decadent, to ingest excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol and die a horrible but heroic death at a relatively young age, or to end up in Schools Broadcasting at the BBC? (c)
And that was that. Juliet’s war.

‘Oh, my dear Juliet,’ he laughed. ‘One is never free. It’s never finished.’ (c)
… Juliet seized her chance.
She was the deer. She was the arrow. She was the queen. She was the contradiction. She was the synthesis. Juliet ran (c)
It was a nice lie and she thanked him silently for it. He always had such good manners. She expected it wasn’t a matter of sides at all, it was probably much more complicated than that. (c)
She wished she could see her son one last time. Remind him to live his life well, tell him that she loved him. Tell him that nothing mattered and that that was a freedom, not a burden. (c)
Profile Image for Trudie.
544 reviews585 followers
September 21, 2018

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 least in part, but the final result is, I am deeply sad to report, a bit of a mess.

I am sure Atkinson knows wit is one of her trade marks but she totally over does it here, it loses it's charm. This starts out a very promising espionage novel that ends as farce. I don't recall her other novels being so peppered with asides in parenthesis not to mention the Greek chorus like repetition of text from earlier in the story. This technique not only drove me entirely batty it also succeeded in ousting me out of the story at key moments.

An impressive amount of research has gone into this book, particularly the role of MI5 in monitoring Nazi sympathisers ( The Fifth Column) during WWII. I feel like the source material is rife with intrigue and danger but somehow that is not carried over into this story. Many times I considered that I might have been better served by reading a non-fiction account of this era. The sense of the war, the political machinations of MI5 and the various elements of seditious activity became quite lost in this rather curiously light-hearted plot. Was Atkinson trying to show that spy craft was relentlessly dull and often pointless ?. That all MI5 men are essentially interchangeable types and that it is impossible to tell who is spying on who and why ?. If so then this was a success.

It hurts me to review this so unfavourably and other fans of Atkinson should not be disheartened as it is entirely possible that I was still suffering a Warlight hangover. The two books share some overlap in a setting of post-war London and espionage as a critical driver however in all other respects they could not be more stylistically opposed.

A slight blemish then on my otherwise complete adoration of this author. I now need to go back and reread Life after Life to remind myself how good Atkinson can be.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,427 reviews35.2k followers
September 25, 2018
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 never get away, and there are spies who spy on the spies, and that past crimes can and will haunt you. The plot shifts around mainly between the 1040's and 1950's with brief time spent in the 1980's

The plot shifts around mainly between the 1040's and 1950's with brief time spent in the 1980's. Juliet begins the book as a young woman mourning the loss of her Mother while attending school to learn a trade. She is recruited right out of the school and passes the initial test and is thrown into the world of espionage. "You've come a long way, baby" comes to mind. This is a slower moving book and one needs to really pay attention to detail. I did struggle at times with the slowness. Initially, I really enjoyed the book and then things felt tedious, then things picked up once again. Juliet is also an interesting character. I failed to connect with her and yet I enjoyed reading her thoughts. She had a dry sense of humor and had some witty and insightful thoughts. The other characters in this book had their own sense of humor as well. I do not read a lot of espionage/spy novels and it was nice to see the humor thrown in.

As Juliet's job is transcription, the reader gets to see the transcriptions that Juliet has made. I enjoyed this touch even though some of the conversations were mundane. I thought this was a nice way to show that a spy's life is not always exciting and how many spy organizations gather their data. Plus, this is another way of giving the reader a glimpse into Juliet's life, her interactions with others in the M15.

Apart from some pacing issues, I was hoping for a little more action in this book. But again, as I mentioned before, this book was dealing with transcribing data so there can't be too much action in that and even the "fight" scene was all very proper. Atkinson's writing is wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed her Author's Note at the end. Don't skip that!

I enjoyed this book and appreciated that Atkinson used a female protagonist *ahem* spy in this book. I just wished I connected more with Juliet. She started off as naive and got some maturity and oomph as the book progressed, but I never felt connected to her character. There are quite few characters in this book, but I found it easy to keep track of them.

Fans of Atkinson, WWII buffs, and fans of spy/espionage novels will surely enjoy this book.

Thank you to Little Brown and Company and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Baba.
3,620 reviews991 followers
June 17, 2022
This quirky almost tongue-in-cheek light comedy follows typist and MI5 spy-in-training 18 year old Juliet Armstrong's career during the Second World War and then a decade later when she's working for the BBC when she is sent a stark reminder of her espionage past! On the offset this book is intriguing in many ways with a look at how the MI5 handled 'observing' and infiltrating the less seemingly overtly dangerous NAZI sympathisers in London during the war; how World War led to a huge expansion in MI5 workers especially amongst women; and also the terror of NAZI-ism turning to new threat of Communism; all this through the unreliable reliable(!) narrator Juliet, whose not only quite fearless, but a staunch lover of correct use of English grammar!

Despite the core concepts being quite sound; the writing pretty good; and the main character so likeable and interesting the book's key weak spot is that the main cast are nowhere near as interesting and intriguing as I felt Kate Atkinson wanted them to be. 7 out of 12.

2022 read
Profile Image for Tammy.
524 reviews441 followers
July 31, 2018
“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.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,272 reviews548 followers
September 24, 2018
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.

While the outline of the story may appear relatively simple, in Atkinson’s hands and with her wonderful verbal skills, the tale becomes one of identity in a much-changed world, reality vs multiple other possible realities, issues of truth or whether there is truth, and the ever present layers of deception in Juliet’s new world. As in other of her novels, there are questions of self and reality along the way, though tackled in a more concrete way than the last two novels.

These are just some of my favorite lines/quotes scattered throughout the book.

Come now, quite enough of exposition and explanation.
We’re not approaching the end of a novel, Miss Armstrong.

( loc 4836 )

In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always
be attended by a bodyguard of lies.

( loc 60)

Older men of a certain type were drawn to her. They
seemed to want to improve her in some way. Juliet was
almost thirty and didn’t feel she needed much more
Improvement. The war had seen to that.
(loc 152)

It was a terrible place really, but she was predisposed
towards it. It was a thread in the labyrinth, one that she
could follow back to the world before the war, to her self
before the war. Innocence and experience butting up
against each other in the greasy fug of Moretti’s.

(loc 242)

That is me, she thought, I am crushed by loss. “Don’t seek
out elaborate metaphors,” her English teacher had said of
her school essays, but her mother’s death had revealed
that there was no metaphor too ostentatious for grief.
It was a terrible thing and demanded embellishment.

(loc 277)

And one final quote.

Juliet felt rather ashamed, as her mind had been on
what dress to wear this evening rather than bottomless
pits of evil. The war still seemed like a matter of
inconvenience rather than a threat.
(loc 945)

I believe these samples give an idea of the spark behind the prose of this novel.

Atkinson provides an interesting Author’s Note outlining the inspirations and sources used before imagination and artistic license took over. She also provides a bibliography relevant to the war years, MI5, etc.

I wholeheartedly recommend this novel.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,226 followers
November 21, 2018
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 sympathisers in the flat next door. Atkinson's heroine is an eighteen year old virgin, who struggles to take anything very seriously. Her breezy naïve outlook is the novel's tone. Everyone is living double or even triple lives, one of Atkinson's favourite themes. Any kind of abiding truth is an elusive commodity. Atkinson perhaps could have dug a lot deeper on this theme. But this is less of a literary novel than Behind the Scenes at the Museum or A God in Ruins.
Twenty pages from the end it delivers what for me was a thoroughly unconvincing twist and the novel suddenly becomes messily entwined with a very real and familiar part of British history. But because it was so near the end it didn't spoil my enjoyment.
Profile Image for Ova - Excuse My Reading.
480 reviews364 followers
September 13, 2018
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 with ease. The people, the events, the conversation, the characters in this book, all 5 stars and I found this book an absolute reading joy, can't recommend enough if you're fan of books that are related to : British, spies, WW2.

Thanks for Penguin for sending me a copy of this book.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,331 reviews2,145 followers
September 30, 2018
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 eccentric and bumbling upper class British. There is a lot of humour in their actions and in the dialogue. She is also able to create a sense of place and time to perfection. I felt as though I was living and breathing London along with Juliet, Perry (poor Perry!) and the rest.

It was so good that I am sorely tempted to go back and reread the Jackson Brodie series, where I discovered Kate Atkinson in the first place.
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,053 reviews2,105 followers
December 13, 2018
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 mechanics of the act, mainly because she still had little idea of what they were.

Also, on a practical level she had imagined a bed, not a hillocky field beneath a thundery sky that was the color of putty. An uncomfortable tussock was sticking into her left buttock. She could see dark clouds moving in from the west and thought, 'we're going to get rained on.' Out of the corner of her eye she saw her hat blow away. 'Oh,' Juliet said again.

He leant closer. Very close. He did not look as attractive from this distance, in fact he looked not a little unlike an otter. She closed her eyes.

Nothing happened, so she opened them again and found him gazing steadily at her. She remembered that he had learnt mesmerisim when he was younger and she thought, Good Lord - was he hypnotizing her? She felt quite woozy all of a sudden, although she supposed she was now officially starving so it was no wonder. And then he was on his feet, pointing at the sky and saying, 'Look, a sparrowhawk!'

Was that it then?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: 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.

MY THOUGHTS: If I could be any writer in the world, I would wish to be Kate Atkinson. I love her inconsequential thoughts, her irreverence, her wit. Her characters are so very real to me that I hesitate to close the book for fear of losing my new found friends (a hangover from my childhood). They have a depth and richness that is seldom seen, another trademark of Atkinson's writing, and yet they are very ordinary people, stumbling through their lives much like most of us do.

Transcription is very much a character driven novel. If you are waiting for something to 'happen', you may well be very disappointed - after all, Juliet can't even lose her virginity - although, of course, things do happen; mundane, everyday things that a naive eighteen year old imbues with perhaps more (or less) significance than they merit.

And underneath all the mind-numbing boredom of typing endless reports, in triplicate, of coping with carbon stained fingertips, of drinking endless cups of tea and the odd cocktail, there is slowly revealed a tale of espionage, counter-espionage, double agents, and a lot of people of whom we are never quite sure whose side they are on.

Classic Atkinson.

And please do read the author's note. Transcription's origin is rooted in reality, and Atkinson talks about the documents that started her on this wonderful journey, and the people behind them. She has also provided me with a whole raft of new reading material that I would never otherwise have heard of. Thank you Kate.


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, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of Transcription by Kate Atkinson, published by Doubleday. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,488 reviews843 followers
November 20, 2019
“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 Schools radio programming in post-war (WW2) London. Juliet Armstrong is a producer who manages the stories, improves the scripts, finds urgent replacements for actors who don’t show up.

Atkinson is known for multiple timelines and multiple characters whose stories bump into and cross over each other eventually, but I found this one a little different. The main times are 1940 (wartime) and 1950 (post-war) with an introduction and final section in 1981. I’m a great fan of hers, and I think this is the first time that I didn’t really care what happened to anybody. Anybody – even Juliet.

1940. She is bored with life, an involuntary celibate (an “incel”, a modern term I learned recently that Cambridge Analytica used to target mostly male, mostly angry, lonely gamers). She’s an 18-year-old orphan, still grieving for her single mother who died recently, and she’s hungering for love, or romance, or just a romp in the hay to learn what it’s all about. Then she’s singled out by handsome, well-spoken Peregrine (“call me Perry) Gibbons to join a unique group. MI5!

‘I’m setting up a special operation,’ he told her. ‘A kind of deception game. You will be an important part of it.’ Was she to be an agent then? (A spy!) No, it seemed she was to remain shackled to a typewriter. ‘We cannot choose our weapons in a time of war, Miss Armstrong,’ he said. I don’t see why not, Juliet thought. What would she choose, she wondered? A sharp sabre? A bow of flaming gold? Perhaps arrows of desire.

You can see how her mind works. At 18, she’s entitled to get a little carried away. The operation involves listening to and typing up transcripts of recordings of meetings between an MI5 agent (Godfrey Toby) and British Nazi sympathisers who gather for morning tea in a flat next door to where she’s stationed.

When she’s asked to impersonate a new character – “Iris Carter-Jenkins” - and mix with these people, mostly women, she does get the chance to test out her skills as an agent.

‘Iris Carter-Jenkins,’ she responded. It was the first time she had said her code name to anyone other than her reflection in the mirror. She could almost feel Iris inflating, taking on life like a butterfly newly emerged from its chrysalis.”

I have to say that I was more confused than she was about who was on whose side. When she mentions to Perry that she thinks one of their most trusted double agents might really be on the side of the Nazis, he explains.

‘She has outstanding “tradecraft” skills,’ Perry said. ‘The mark of a good agent is when you have no idea which side they’re on.’

Well, yes, but when the time jumps to 1950, I lose track of who was supposed to be on whose side in 1940. [Perhaps I’m not capable anymore of these mental gymnastics! I certainly hope that’s not the case. But I digress.]

She does have some close calls, but I wouldn’t call this a spy thriller.

“Making her way to the Underground, Juliet felt a frisson of fear, an animal instinct that told her she was being followed. When she glanced behind her she could see no one who looked as if they might be dogging her footsteps. That was no comfort, as all it meant was that if someone was following her then they were very good at it.”

Her escapades during the war were more interesting than her life after. There are Atkinson’s trademark tricks to keep us reading by referring in the more recent timeframe to things that happened during the war (how to move a dead body, or whose pearls she stole).

I love her writing and am a big fan of her generally. If you’ve not read any of her books, I recommend you start with something else. For WW2, try Life After Life and then A God in Ruins. I am extremely fond of the Jackson Brodie Case History series, beginning with, of course, Case Histories.

I will finish with a remark made near the end by one character, which I feel is more for our benefit today than Juliet’s then.

“Human nature favours the tribal. Tribalism engenders violence. It was ever thus and so it will ever be.”

Pity, that.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,903 reviews534 followers
July 22, 2020
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 worked at the BBC, until her past caught up with her. The book was loosely based on historical records and there is a lengthy bibliography in the book for anyone who wants to read about the actual people and events.

The beginning of the book was a little confusing because the author hopped around among several time periods. It became much easier to follow once the story settled into the 1940s. The characters were very convincing, with compelling personalities and secrets. They were also very good at their jobs. I haven't always liked this author's books, but I enjoyed this one very much.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Peter.
504 reviews608 followers
September 26, 2018
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 sympathisers and transcribing them for her superiors. Gradually she becomes more involved in the spy world, taking part in some dangerous operations herself. Years later Juliet is working for the BBC when she starts to receive anonymous notes, saying "You will pay for what you did." Just what did she get up to during the war and is her past about to catch up with her?

Atkinson has clearly done an immense amount of research for this novel. The transcribed conversations that punctuate the story and the period detail of wartime London all make it feel very authentic. However, I couldn't really warm to Juliet. She proves herself untrustworthy and she can be quite sarcastic, especially in her BBC role. Also, the endless pining for her colleague Perry particularly annoyed me for some reason. Perhaps this is why I found it difficult to become invested in her fate. The number of indistinguishable secret agents that she worked with didn't help things either. But I also think that the story lacks the emotional heft that is a hallmark of Atkinson's best work. Transcription is not a bad novel. There are plenty of secrets and surprises, and the ending is stylishly executed. But for a writer of Kate Atkinson's calibre, I expect a lot more.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,301 reviews450 followers
September 29, 2018
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.
October 12, 2018
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 years, she likely hadn’t looked in the right direction for traffic and has been hit by a car.

After this, Juliet’s story shifts back 30, then 40, years. The 1950s segment also unfolds on a London street. Taking a lunch break from her job at the BBC, Juliet chances upon a man she’d known quite well during the war—a fellow spy, in fact—who now completely denies having been acquainted with her. The 1940s section, which is a great deal longer, explains (among other things) how Juliet first came to know that spy, Godfrey Toby, alias John Hazeldine.

Early on, Atkinson gives us a little of her protagonist’s background. We learn Juliet was raised by a single, dressmaker mother, that she’d been a bright girl and a scholarship student of some promise, and that everything had changed for her at 17 when her mother died. Forced to shift for herself, Juliet went on to attend a second-rate secretarial school. With the outbreak of the Second World War, she hoped to be accepted by the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British Army. Instead, she is called to a strange interview, which she inexplicably lies her way through (even about apparently inconsequential matters, such as her favourite painter), and is signed on by the Security Service— MI5, Britain’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency. She is soon selected by the famous Peregrine Gibbons for a special intelligence operation that is to unfold in Dolphin Square, a large block of private flats (in Pimlico) built in the mid 1930s, shortly before the time of the main action of this story. Juliet will eventually become a full-fledged spy herself.

It’s quite a long time since I’ve read an Atkinson novel and I really don’t recall her writing being so fluffy and flippant. I found Juliet an annoyingly frivolous and lightweight protagonist for whom I could not summon up even minimal interest. I felt I was given entirely too many of her punning and sardonic asides, which quickly wore thin. There is also a glut of period details, which some may regard as producing a more authentic piece, but which I just felt bogged down by.

One-third of the way through, I bailed. I was sick of Juliet. I didn’t care what became of her. I feel a certain sadness at leaving behind a once-favourite author, but I didn’t like A God in Ruins either. Something has changed, and it may be me.

I am grateful to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC. This is a book I would certainly have regretted spending money on.
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
634 reviews349 followers
December 9, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,641 reviews2,158 followers
August 2, 2018
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 way. This, my friends, is a spy novel and a real juicy one at that. But it does have the one Atkinson trademark, where you finish it feeling like you've read a fancy literary novel while still indulging in real genre thrills.

We start in 1950 where Juliet is moving towards spinsterhood with a rather dull job producing children's educational radio shows for the BBC. A chance encounter with someone from her past in MI5 sets off a long flashback to 1940. Juliet is barely an adult when she's brought in to do secretarial work for the government as so many women did during the war. She ends up, seemingly through sheer happenstance, taking on a covert job as a transcriptionist, listening in on a British spy who is undercover among German sympathizers. It starts out as dull work but soon Juliet is roped into taking on a larger role in the operation. For a while we move back and forth between these two times, learning more about what Juliet did for MI5 during the war and following her growing paranoia a decade later as she suspects that someone is after her for what she did back then.

This isn't exactly a traditional thriller, though the tension is expertly managed, mostly by the way Atkinson toys with the reader. She can turn on a dime, and Juliet's wry outlook on the world provides a healthy helping of humor amid the growing suspense. It's not just a suspenseful spy novel, it's building a whole world for Juliet to live in, which makes the spy part work even better. When you can see all the little players everywhere, you start to wonder if all of them are who they say they are and just what there may be below the surface behind any face, any front door, any shop window.

It was a joy to read, I sped through it, and honestly I'm not sure I could have ordered up a Kate Atkinson novel right now that would have hit that Kate Atkinson-y spot so nicely.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,389 reviews115 followers
October 26, 2018
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, Juliet shines at this task. It is not long before Juliet attends societal events whereby she can spy on women fascist sympathizers herself. She assumes multiple personas that seem to affect her own personality. She gets adept at lying, stealing and more. There were a few tension-filled moments; but the characters were so duplicitous, it was hard to care.
Profile Image for Dianne.
567 reviews935 followers
November 30, 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 sympathizers within the British establishment. Infiltrate it she does - with unforeseen consequences that reverberate into the future.

The book moves back and forth in time between 1940, 1950 and 1981. I loved the 1940 storyline the best - wonderful characters and a glimpse into wartime England. The 1950 storyline confused me a bit. I wasn’t sure what was real and what Juliet might be imagining. Encounters at a spy colleague’s former home and a yarn shop seemed surreal and unlikely. So many spies and double spies and traitors and suspicious characters milling around! Perplexing - but overall, a very atmospheric winner.

Be sure to read the author’s note at the end for an explanation of how the story evolved and the intermarriage of fact and fiction in the story.

In some of the reviews I read, readers stated that they felt no connection at all to the coolly cynical and diffident Juliet. I felt the opposite, I felt like I knew exactly who she was - hello, Jungian INTJ personality. I “got” you, girlfriend - I got you!
Profile Image for Sandy.
873 reviews220 followers
November 16, 2018
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....
Profile Image for Renata.
132 reviews135 followers
June 30, 2019
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 believable. I loved her frequent literary allusions and honestly think Atkinson was channeling her inner PG Wodehouse at times.
Atkinson’s themes of identity, spying, and the challenges of moving on in the years after the war also made me think of Michael Ondaatje’s new book War Light which recently read (also on audiobook). Similar structure of being first person narration and spread out over separate time periods. War Light though begins in the years immediately after the war and tries to piece together the mysterious lives of people during the war. Hauntingly beautiful - with similar dissonance between what was perceived and the layers of unanswered questions about the people one was close to.
The two books would make an excellent shared reading for discussion.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,471 reviews1,012 followers
August 26, 2018
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 consequences years later. The pace is sedate yet entirely compelling, Juliet is incredibly engaging and the lines between fact and fiction blur into one addictively riveting tale.
Transcription is a literary delight, a tranquil pond in the middle of a storm, often unexpected, emotionally resonant and pitched perfectly throughout. I loved it, the ending had me teary eyed and this is one of those books where I know I will miss those fictional yet honestly authentic characters for months to come.
Magic. Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
575 reviews992 followers
November 16, 2019
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 almost always have consequences whether the effect is immediate or doesn't surface until a decade or more later.

Atkinson's writing is simply beautiful; her sense of humor is dry and very witty. Juliet has a running commentary in her head that is filled with clever quips and asides. I found myself marveling at the author's ability to tell her story in such a fabulous way. Atkinson also touches on some timely topics such as nationalism versus patriotism and the threat of those who will sacrifice everything for a belief.

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book and did not see the ending coming which made me like the book all the more. It is truly a timely and thought-provoking read.

For more reviews, check out my Instagram account, https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 6 books59.9k followers
November 25, 2019
Kate Atkinson's latest historical sticks to the WWII setting of Life After Life and A God in Ruins but stands on its own. It's 1940, and an eighteen-year-old girl named Juliet, in search of a job, is surprised to find herself plunged into the world of espionage. Atkinson has become one of my must-read authors.

Confession: I read this at the beach this summer and loved its droll British voice (though it took me more than a few chapters to get oriented).
Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,552 reviews604 followers
December 10, 2018
[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.
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