I am quite surprised by how much I liked The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland. It is a quiet and soft spoken novel, that to me read like a short story. Days after reading it, certain powerful images continue to pop up in my brain at the most unexpected times.
The story focuses on Lena, a transcriptionist at a large New York newspaper. Here Rowland speaks of what she knows, as she worked as a transcriptionist at the New York Times before moving on to the Book Review. Overtime, the words Lena transcribes come to overtake her and inhabit her. In particular, there is one story of a woman mauled to death by lions at the zoo, that Lena cannot let go of.
Not much happens in the novel, but the imagery is layered and transformative. Lions and pigeons abound, as do quotes from literary noteworthies including Flannery O’Connor, George Eliot and Ray Bradbury. Questions of ethics in journalism also creep into the narrative as Lena delves more deeply into the story of the woman mauled by the lions and as she encounters dubious practices among some journalists.
Who would like this novel? There is a certain subtlety to The Transcriptionist that reminded me of Alice Munro. Though not much is said, a tremendous amount is communicated. It maybe for this reason, that The Transcriptionist reminded me of a short story. I’m sure that there is much in the novel that i did not catch. It is the type of book that deserves a second or even third reading, and would be fascinating to study in detail. It is a work that is meant for the literary aficionado and those looking for a light read should probably look elsewhere.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.