When I saw a story about a ‘fell into it” spy, I had to grab Kate Atkinson’s latest book. Narrated by Fenella Woolgar, please read on for my review of
I’m addicted to tales of spies and spymasters, and World War II is a particular favorite – I have family that was involved in the Resistance in France, and have always wondered just how different the world would be now had people not risen up to the challenge, and managed to endure the hardships. That all being said, the ‘normal people” much like the protagonist here in Juliet, who were doing their part and soon found that their part was often more complex than ever imagined. But, this is Juliet’s story, and her strange transition for an untrained and quite frankly impulsive and often wrong-footed Juliet into the complexities of spying was an interesting, if quite uneven read. Flashes in time that move forward and back with little explanation (or quite frankly, connection) to the moment at hand, the very clever quips and observations that feel utterly unlike something Juliet could imagine herself, and the obvious attention to source material by the author that shows her familiarity with many stories of the day, the procedures and even the challenges were wholly understood, if often seeming to come off as unconnected to the story at hand.
For me, Juliet was immature and not so clever, unaware of the real dangers in her inability to keep cover stories straight, and while the moaned repeatedly about how boring her ‘transcription’ time was – there wasn’t a sense that she had a true understanding of her importance in the overall scheme or even in keeping her stories straight and her wits sharp. And then there were issues with pacing and a poorly contrived twist that was little more than a moment to yawn, having not established any real connection or explanation to the story as we have seen it. I was sad to find the story itself so uninspiring, as there was a gem underneath all of the fluff that didn’t connect, even after a second listen. But, there were moments beyond the author’s obvious connections to the story’s factual points that reached beyond any personalization of the story unfolding, trying to be more connected to listeners and readers alike, and it was for those moments that I kept listening, while never actually developing any sort of connection to Juliet or to see her grow in any substantial ways.
Narration for this story is provided by Fenella Woolgar and she was marvelous to listen to- keeping characters clearly evident, becoming Juliet in all of her frustrating moments, and finding a sense of wonder in the earlier moments when things are new. Her voice is clear and well matched to the writer’s style, the jumps in time forward and back, the ability to provide emotion that is presented without overdoing the moment as well as clearly presenting a tone for retelling of transcribed bits was spot on and gave me the interest in continuing on with the listen.
Stars: Overall 3 Narration 4 Story 2
Author: Kate Atkinson
Genre: British, Historical Fiction, Humor elements, World War II
Narrator: Fenella Woolgar
Published by: Hachette Audio, Little Brown
Published on: 25 September, 2018
Source: Hachette Audio
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 9 minutes
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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.
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.