There’s a note at the end of Transcription where Kate Atkinson reveals the twin inspirations for the novel – a set of World War II transcripts of recordings made of bugged premises, classified at the time but recently released by the National Archives, and Eric Roberts, a bank clerk at the Westminster Bank (Is there anything more boring?) who posed as a Gestapo agent during WW2 when he worked for MI5 as a spy (Is there anything more exciting?).
Transcription blends and fictionalises these two sets of facts, and revolves around (and reveals) the life of the young woman who typed the up the transcripts. And so we follow Juliet Armstrong from when she leaves school on the death of her mother, to her recruitment to work for MI5 as a typist, to living and loving in London during the war, into the 1950s and finally, briefly, to her life afterwards.
A re-read, which is quite rare for me. I’m glad Kate Atkinson moved fully into the crime genre. You can see hints of it here, as we are shown key events in the lives of four generations of Yorkshire women – Alice, Nell, Bunty and narrator Ruby.