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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.
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  New York Times Review

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan. (Penguin, $18.) Yes, this is the book in which Pollan drops acid. Here, the author, known for his searching examinations of the ethics of eating, investigates how psychedelics can provide relief. His book was one of the Book Review's 10 best of 2018. SEVERANCE, by Ling Ma. (Picador, $17.) Candace, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is the anchor of this dystopian novel as she falls into an unsatisfying and trance-like routine in New York City. As our reviewer, Antonia Hitchens, put it, the book "offers blatant commentary on 'dizzying abundance' and unrelenting consumption, evolving into a semi-surreal sendup of a workplace and its utopia of rules." THE ROAD TO UNFREEDOM: Russia, Europe, America, by Timothy Snyder. (Tim Duggan, $17.) Snyder considers what causes democracy to fracture, with a focus on recent political instability in the West. In his view, Russia and Vladimir Putin are to blame. Our reviewer, Margaret MacMillan, wrote that Snyder "argues forcefully and eloquently" that we are living in dangerous times, calling his book a "good wake-up call." THE GLITCH, by Elisabeth Cohen. (Anchor, $16.) Shelley is the chief executive of a tech company, and she's ruthlessly efficient: She schedules sex with her husband, carves out "me time" at 3:30 a.m. and even takes a men's multivitamin. When she encounters a woman who claims to be a younger Shelley, her life begins to unravel, raising broader questions about work and selfhood. "What is the 'glitch,' really, for the rest of us?" our reviewer, Stephanie Danler, asked. "It's a question of work, and what it costs women to do it." STEALING THE SHOW: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television, by Joy Press. (Atria, $18.) Press, a former critic for The Village Voice, traces the ways in which women like Shonda Rhimes, Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling have transformed television. While the book focuses mainly on contemporary shows, including "Gilmore Girls" and "Broad City," it gives a nod to their forebears, like "I Love Lucy" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." TRANSCRIPTION, by Kate Atkinson. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $16.99.) In her new novel, the author of "Life After Life" explores a teenage girl's unlikely involvement with MI5 in 1940. Juliet was a secretary before her recruitment, and was assigned to monitor British Fascist sympathizers. Ten years later, while she was working for the BBC, her past comes back to her in unsettling ways.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Atkinson's suspenseful novel (following A God in Ruins) is enlivened by its heroine's witty, sardonic voice as she is transformed from an innocent, unsophisticated young woman into a spy for Britain's MI5 during WWII. Initially recruited to transcribe secretly recorded conversations between British fascist sympathizers who think they are conspiring with the Gestapo, Juliet Armstrong is one day given an infiltration assignment (and a gun), during which she discovers an important document-and just like that, she becomes an undercover agent. Her growing realization of the serious nature of what at first seems like an "espionage lark" is made more intriguing by her attraction to her enigmatic boss. Juliet finds herself running a safe house for a Russian defector until the war's end, after which she lives in an unspecified location abroad for decades. It's in the 1970s that agents return and insist that she get back in the game as a double agent, and she realizes there's no exit. If Atkinson initially challenges credibility because Juliet slides too quickly from being a naive 18-year-old into a clever escape artist and cool conspirator, her transition into idealistic patriot and then ultimately jaded pawn in the espionage world is altogether believable. The novel's central irony is that the desperation for victory in a noble cause later becomes tainted with ruthless political chicanery. The book ends on an uncertain note for Juliet, a poignant denouement for this transportive, wholly realized historical novel. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A dramatic story of WWII espionage, betrayal, and loyalty, by the #1 bestselling author of Life After Life <br> <br> <br> In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever. <br> Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence. <br> Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of the best writers of our time.
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