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Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald - Review

Friday, November 11, 2022

I can't remember where I heard of this book but there must have been a reason I heard of it, or someone recommended it to me. I requested it at the library in August, and it arrived while I was on holiday in France. The library keeps holds for two weeks before returning them, so I sent Lee to pick the book up on the day after we got back from holiday. I didn't get round to it until early October, though, by which time it was due back at the library. I tried to renew it, but the system told me the item had holds on it, so I couldnt. 

Now I actually find this impossible to believe, because of this:

This is the check out record at the front of the book, and as you'll see, the last time it was out before me was AUGUST 2000!!! I cannot believe that no one has requested it in twenty years and then two of us did at the same time?! I am pretty sure it had been in county reserves for that entire time, to be honest. Maybe it was just a bug in the system? It was weird and funny anyway!

So I can't remember why I wanted to read this, but I picked it up anyway. It reminded me of Transcription by Kate Atkinson. The characters are somewhat confusing and often referred to by their roles at the BBC - DPP  and RPD and other things like that. I had to keep reminding myself of who was who. Sam and Jeff are those two, are department heads who record sounds and programmes and other things for use at the BBC. They each have young assistants, Recorded Programme Assistants. Sam surrounds himself with young women so they will mostly care about his worries. The book is set in 1940 when bombs are raining down upon London. Violet is one of the RPAs and she becomes friendly with Lise, a new one, who then disappears. She later asks for a pass to be allowed to use the BBC's bunk room. 

The new RPA is Annie, from Birmingham, who has had an interesting life up to now. She soon falls in love with Sam. 

The book is quite short, and to the point. I liked the prose a lot, and the conversations between the RPAs. I did find it confusing in parts, but I'm glad I persevered with it as it was quite a departure for me. I'm giving it four out of five! 

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