Transcription by Kate Atkinson

1. First lines 2. Published by Penguin Little, Brown & Co. Spy clipart undercover[Public Domain]
Juliet Armstrong (is that her real name?) is a spy (rhymes with lie). The quirky style of writing is very entertaining, but it’s not a humorous story. There is tragedy here.


Plot summary: As an 18-year old, Juliet is recruited by the British Secret Service to transcribe conversations between British agents and Nazi symapthisers. This is a story of subterfuge and intrigue, told by Juliet who recounts what has taken place.

Quotes from the book:

  • “Juliet hadn’t a clue. Rhymes with true, she thought.”
  • “Tumours. Everywhere. Rhymes with rumours, Juliet thought.”
  • “It was Cyril (rhymes with squirrel, Juliet thought).”
  • “I should have been more careful, she thought. It would be the epitaph on her grave, wouldn’t it? Not Beloved Sister not At Home With God, but She Should Have Been More careful.”
  • “Why was it that the females of the species were always the ones left to tidy up, she wondered? I expect Jesus came out of the tomb, Juliet thought, and said to his mother, “Can you tidy it up a bit back there?”

Extract (opens in a new window)              Kate Atkinson website


  • ” … Atkinson’s great gift is for presenting the mundanity of ordinary life with wry detachment, even in the midst of unprecedented trauma. Juliet’s inner commentary channels a gloriously British flavour of stoical humour, finding the absurd in the tragic even as she upbraids herself for being too “flippant”. Full review: The Guardian
  • “Transcription is the sort of book that reminds you how profound and satisfying and moving and exhilarating good fiction can be.” Full review: The Irish Times

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