The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

I am quite surprised by how much I liked The Transcriptionist by Amy RoThe-Transcriptionistwland. 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.


  1. Great review πŸ™‚ 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!

  2. Can I tease you about this love of a book that’s like a short story? πŸ™‚
    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

  3. Pingback: May Round Up! | 52 books or bust

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s