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.
I’d read about this on Leah’s blog Books Speak Volumes, and now your review has made me want to read it! I like the concept and the imagery sounds interesting.
I think I might have to come back to this one. I wonder if it was because I had just read the full language of All the Light We Cannot See or what, but the start of it totally fell flat for me and I couldn’t get myself to keep going.
I remember you saying that, so was really surprised by how much I liked it. It’s subtlety may be a problem coming after such a big book.
Can’t wait to give this one a go. Great review!
Great review 🙂 I love reading positive reviews for this book because it makes me think about the things I might have missed when I read it. It might be a while before I revisit the book and try it again, but these reviews are definitely giving me a push!
Sadly, I’m not one for the subtlety of short stories. I think I’ll skip this one 😦 Nothing t do with your review – just my own personal taste!
Fair enough. I don’t normally like short stories either. I’m not sure why this book grabbed my attention so much, but it did.
Can I tease you about this love of a book that’s like a short story? 🙂
This is most definitely on my TBR list. You could actually just tell me the book was called The Transcriptionist and I’d be on my way to buy it, but now that 3 trusted book bloggers have liked it? It’s totally getting purchased asap. -Tania
I know! I was shocked that I liked it! And to be clear, the reason I read it was based on the title alone.
thanks, sounds like I would like this book, adding to my TBR
I love when a book sticks with you after reading it. In my opinion, a book that can get you thinking is a good book 🙂
This sounds really good- I like to read a multi-layered book now and again. It gives my brain something to chew on for a while after I’ve finished.
I think there was a lot in the book that went over my head, but even the small amount I got gave me lots to think about.
I’ll be reading this one in a few weeks and am looking forward to it. Glad that you liked it!
I know some others who weren’t so keen on it, but I really liked it. Let me know what you think when you get it read.
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Now that The Transcriptionist is available on Kindle, I look forward to reading it. I love books that explore media communication. You have a lovely blog! 🙂
Thanks. I liked the inside look at the newspaper biz too.