[I received a copy of this book in ebook format for free from the publisher Algonquin Books via NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book.]
I was really excited when I was approved to review The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland on NetGalley because I was extremely drawn to the story after reading its synopsis. The story is centered around Lena, a transcriptionist for a newspaper called The Record. Lena becomes increasingly fascinated by a story that she reads in the paper about a blind woman who was mauled to death by lions at the zoo. Instead of forgetting about the article, she starts to dig deeper into the woman’s life…
I’m not sure what exactly the reason was but I had a hard time getting into this book. There’s a chance that it might be because I’m still getting used to reading ebooks (not being able to flip back and forth freely through the pages was a slight hindrance) or maybe it was because I was in the mood for something different but overall the novel didn’t quite work for me.
The most interesting part of the book and the part that it is most concerned with is its main character Lena. Luckily, I really sympathized with her as a character and that pushed me to continue reading the novel instead of putting it down. As the transcriptionist at The Record, she is excluded from the hustle and bustle of the newsroom, having only tape recordings, her dictaphone, and a pigeon to keep her company all day on a floor in the newspaper’s building where visitors are rare. The book really plays on this feeling of isolation and darkness and connects Lena to the story of the woman who was mauled by lions. As it turns out, the two women have a few things in common, and the need to know more about the woman’s life becomes almost a fixation for Lena. The book pays a lot of attention to Lena’s feelings and thoughts and while I didn’t mind it, I wish it would have pushed further and provided more interesting answers to the questions it brings up.
Now, I don’t need every novel I read to have a moral or a message, but for one that spends so much time showing readers its main character’s internal thoughts I was expecting a bit more. The Transcriptionist shows us a rare corner of the newspaper business and raises interesting questions about the ethics of journalism but I felt like I didn’t really get to know any of the characters (besides Lena and the woman) very well and their plot lines became a bit jumbled and rushed for me. I saw the book’s potential and wished that it had been executed a little differently. That being said, The Transcriptionist provides building blocks for thoughts to form and questions to be answered, so don’t entirely write it off just yet.
Verdict: Not a personal favourite but the premise is interesting and the want to know more carries the reader to the end despite certain shortcomings.
Read if: You want an insider’s view of the newspaper industry, you want to read a book that raises interesting questions, you want a book that has a plot but is more focused on the innerworkings of its main character’s mind.
Have you read The Transcriptionist? Did you have a different opinion than me? I’m always open to discussions and I would love to be swayed. Will you be picking up The Transcriptionist? Let me know!