1981 The Children's Hour 'Miss Armstrong? Miss Armstrong, can you hear me?' She could, although she didn't seem able to respond. She was badly damaged. Broken. She had been hit by a car. It might have been her own fault, she had been distracted - she had lived for so long abroad that she had probably looked the wrong way when she was crossing Wigmore Street in the midsummer twilight. Between the darkness and the daylight. 'Miss Armstrong?' A policeman? Or a paramedic. Someone official, someone who must have looked in her bag and found something with her name on it. She had been at a concert - Shostakovich. The string quartets, all fifteen parsed out in servings of three a day at the Wigmore Hall. It was Wednesday - the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth. She supposed she would miss the rest of them now. 'Miss Armstrong?' In the June of 1942 she had been in the Royal Albert Hall for the concert premiere of the Seventh Symphony, the 'Leningrad'. A man she knew had finessed a ticket for her. The hall had been packed to the rafters and the atmosphere had been electrifying, magnificent - it had felt as though they were at one with the occupants of the siege. And with Shostakovich, too. A collective swelling of the heart. So long ago. So meaningless now. The Russians had been their enemies and then they were their allies, and then they were enemies again. The Germans the ame - the great enemy, the worst of all of them, and now they were our friends, one of the mainstays of Europe. It was all such a waste of breath. War and peace. Peace and war. It would go on for ever without end. 'Miss Armstrong, I'm just going to put this neck collar on you.' She found herself thinking about her son. Matteo. He was twenty-six years old, the result of a brief liaison with an Italian musician - she had lived in Italy for many years. Juliet's love for Matteo had been one of the overwhelming wonders of her life. She was worried for him - he was living in Milan with a girl who made him unhappy and she was fretting over this when the car hit her. Lying on the pavement of Wigmore Street with concerned bystanders all around, she knew there was no way out from this. She was just sixty years old, although it had probably been a long enough life. Yet suddenly it all seemed like an illusion, a dream that had happened to someone else. What an odd thing existence was. There was to be a royal wedding. Even now, as she lay on this London pavement with these kind strangers around her, a sacrificial virgin was being prepared somewhere up the road, to satisfy the need for pomp and circumstance. Union Jacks draped everywhere. There was no mistaking that she was home. At last. 'This England,' she murmured. Excerpted from Transcription: A Novel by Kate Atkinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.