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From the blurb: n 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 for ever.

Ten years later, now a 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.


There are also bookend sections at front and back set in 1981.


I was really looking forward to reading this, Kate Atkinson is one of my favourtie authors, but I'm sad to say that this one is something of  disappointment. It's beautifully written of course, her books always are, but I can't help feeling that though much of the plot is based on  real life and her research (there's an extensive acknowledgement section at the end) she wasn't really sure where she was taking Juliet - or, if she was, she was so determined not to signal it that the plot twist at the end is so unexpected as not to be properly credible. And it may just be that I know too much about the period already but I also found that particular denoument slightly clichéd too.


There is a raft of charecters, some who drift in and out, some who stay a little longer, but very few of them are more than basic charecter sketches including Juliet who is deeply naieve - quite possible for an 18 year old in 1940 but she never seems to become more worldly wise in the war years, despite having a very knowing best friend who is one of the charecters who does come alive, but she only features in the very first part of the book and is barely mentioned again until the end.  All this means you stay pretty uninvolved - I didn't think the book got boring, just that unlike most of Kate Atkinson's books I could bear to put it down.


She's got a new Jackson Brodie coming out in June though. Really looking forward to that.

Edited by Viccie
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5 hours ago, MisterHobgoblin said:

I have often thought that Kate Atkinson was a writer I ought to read, but although the blurbs are promising, the reaction from readers often seems a bit lukewarm. Thanks for sharing Viccie. 


That has been my experience with her.  I enjoy the Jackson Brodie books pretty much (and like the dramatization), but for me, her books start out very well with lots of promise and then just fizzle out.

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21 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I like the Brodie books, but tried one of her others - Emotionally Weird - and it was awful, I would have dumped it but it was a book group read.  I think she's a Marmite author,

I too found Emotionally Weird hard to get into but I had the added incentive that it is set in my home city and so the memories it revived helped me warm to the characters and in the end I enjoyed the novel. Still think her best book is Behind the Scenes at the Museum. 

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  • 2 months later...

I have got to about p.250 in this but have admitted defeat. It just seems to be lots of stuff happening and people talking, with little of interest. It feels too whimsical and flippant, like a John le Carré rewritten by Alan Bennett. I do like Kate Atkinson but this has been deeply annoying.

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