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Transcription by Kate Atkinson is a historical fiction novel full of spies, deception, conflict and wit. The following book club questions will have spoilers so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my preview and review first.
The story follows Juliet Armstrong, who was recruited when she was 18 to join the British Secret Service during WWII. Her job is to monitor the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers. Juliet transcribes the secretly recorded conversations that took place with an undercover MI5 agent. There’s also a time jump to the 1950s when she’s working on educational radio programs for the BBC and her past comes back to the haunt her.
Let’s get into the book club questions
- The story starts off in 1981 and jumps back to 1940 and then moves to 1950 for a good chunk before finishing back in the ’80s. What did you think about this story structure and different time periods when it comes to story flow?
- Let’s evaluate Juliet in the time different time periods and how she grew and evolved. What surprised you the most about her?
- Which story lines were you most engaged with and why?
- Why do you think Juliet lied so much in her interview with Morton? Why do you think they hired her?
- Let’s talk about Juliet’s dynamic with Perry. She obviously was in lust with him while he had other interests in mind, however, he still cared for her just not in the way she wanted. How did this showcase her naivety?
- And on the other hand, Juliet is very capable with her transcribing skills and is asked to go undercover. Why do you think Juliet was so skilled at being undercover?
- Now let’s focus on Godfrey, a complicated figure in many ways. He’s a spy but he seems fond of the British Fascist sympathizers, despite their beliefs. Why? What does that represent about human nature?
- When Juliet is in the 1950s, she’s working at the BBC. Why was this a logical transition for her?
- As she starts to receive threatening messages, who did you think at first it was from?
- Why did Godfrey run away from her?
- Let’s talk about the Dolly scene toward the end.
- There’s a line toward the end when Mr ‘Fisher’ says “nothing is as simple as it looks.” What did that mean within the context of this book?
- What surprised you the most about the ending and the reveal of Juliet as a double agent?
- How does this novel show that history is doomed to repeat itself?
- A key aspect of the book is about living with the choices we make. Once choice brings us down one road while the other one a different road. How does that relate to your own life?
- If there is anything that confused you about the story, let’s now take the time to discuss it.
Next on my TBR (to be read) list
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is next on my list. Check out my preview here.
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Editorial Note – I was given a copy of Kate Atkinson’s Transcription in return for a review.