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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Spying on London in WWII

Kate Atkinson's new novel, Transcription, is about a young girl at the start of World War II who is hired by the M15, the British intelligence agency, to transcribe secretly recorded conversations between a British M15 agent posing as a Nazi sympathizer and other British Hitler supporters. The Fifth Column was the name for the network of Brits who supported the Nazis and the German cause. 

This fictional story of Atkinson's is based on real transcripts recently released by the M15. Atkinson became interested in the Fifth Column and fascinated with the unnamed "girl" who transcribed these conversations. The book moves from 1981 at the end of the life of this "girl," whom she names Juliet, to 1950, when she is working for the BBC post war, to 1940 during the time Juliet is working for the M15 as a transcriptionist.  We learn that Juliet is a naive orphan learning about life and love while negotiating layers of intrigue in the early days of WWII.  Juliet has her own secrets which we don't learn until the end of the novel. I am certainly not posting any spoilers here, but the book is another winner by one of my favorite novelists. I highly recommend!