Transcription | Kate Atkinson

I liked this book so much I read it again as soon as I’d finished it. This is extremely rare.

A young woman is recruited to the secret service during the Second World War to transcribe covert recordings of meetings with pro-Nazi informers. Her superiors recognise her spy potential and give her a mission to infiltrate a secret group that one of the informers belongs to. Job done, but shocking events ensue, and provide a cliffhanger ending for part 1. Part 2 sees her in a seemingly comfortable post-war career in the BBC, but the past doesn’t go away that easily.

The heroine is an engagingly enigmatic character, as Ms Atkinson’s female protagonists tend to be – one reason I like her so much – and nobody on either side is quite who they seem. Kate Atkinson’s human observation, eye for detail, wry humour, evocation of time and place, narrative prowess, and believability is at its peak in Transcription. On one level, it’s a gripping wartime yarn of pluck and derring-do, and she does WW2 very well. But as this is mischevious genre-subverting Kate Atkinson we never quite know who or what to believe, and suspect that she is Probably Up To Something, which adds a whole new layer of reading pleasure. Top notch stuff whichever way you read it.