Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: The Other Typist

Summary: Rose Baker seals men’s fates. With a few strokes of the keys that sit before her, she can send a person away for life in prison. A typist in a New York City Police Department precinct, Rose is like a high priestess. Confessions are her job. It is 1923, and while she may hear every detail about shootings, knifings, and murders, as soon as she leaves the interrogation room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for filing and making coffee.

This is a new era for women, and New York is a confusing place for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. All around her women bob their hair, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. Yet prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood. When glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high-stakes world. And soon her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover. -- Amy Einhorn Books

I can't believe it's taken me this long to write my review for THE OTHER TYPIST by Suzanne Rindell. I'm embarrassed to say that I read this book on the train ride home from BEA, and the book definitely captured my interest. I actually couldn't wait to read this novel for a number of reasons -- it's an Amy Einhorn book, I had just met the author at the Penguin Bash, and there was certainly a lot of buzz about the story. However, for some reason, it has taken me two months to put my thoughts down.

THE OTHER TYPIST tells the story of Rose, a young woman who is a typist for the New York City Police Department in the early 1920s. Rose pretty much keeps to herself, typing police reports and confessions; however, one day a mysterious woman named Odalie begins working as the new typist. Rose is immediately drawn to her and the two women begin a friendly relationship at work which eventually includes visiting speakeasies in the underworld of New York City. As Rose and Odalie's friendship grows, Rose begins to change from the seemingly meek typist as she becomes almost obsessed with Odalie and her secrets.

Overall, I enjoyed THE OTHER TYPIST but I'm not certain that I loved it. What's odd is that for most of the novel, I really, really did like it; and then I was kind of disappointed with the surprise ending. Heck, if I'm being entirely honest, I'm still not sure exactly what happened in this novel -- or maybe I should say that I don't know quite what to believe.While I appreciated the shock value of the last few pages, I kind of felt manipulated -- I can't really explain it beyond that without giving away too much of the story.

Rose is a fantastic example of an unreliable narrator that seems to be so popular right now in fiction -- I think it's the GONE GIRL effect. The reader is given some pretty blatant clues that Rose isn't quite right, and it's enough to kind of doubt Rose's truthfulness; however, I still found myself still believing most of what she said. (Dumb me!) I grasped pretty early on that Rose was telling her story as part of her therapy/recover, but I had no idea what happened to bring her to this point in her life. As I read more and more, I could see that Rose was seriously unstable and it wasn't until the very end that I realized just how crazy she was.

I actually liked that there was some mystery to Rose and Odalie, and I think that's why I enjoyed this novel as much as did. I couldn't put the book down because I had to uncover the truth about both of their characters. So that's really saying something about Ms. Rindell's writing style. I thought the author did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of this time period -- in the setting, the fashion, and even the role of women. And I especially enjoyed seeing the underbelly of New York City!

However, what I appreciated the most about this novel was Rose's voice. I thought Ms. Rindell brought this character to life so well and I loved her sarcasm and cynicism that came through in every sentence. Rose was extremely judgmental and I couldn't stand her, but that I was able to feel so much for her (even though it was negative) is a huge testament to the writing. I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised that this is Ms. Rindell's debut novel, and I look forward to reading anything she writes!

THE OTHER TYPIST would make a great book club selection! If nothing else, your club could discuss the ending! I know I wanted to call a friend and talk about it immediately after finishing it because I was so confused. There is a reading guide with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include friendship, loyalty, truthfulness, rules, and mental illness. In addition, it might be interesting to talk about the time period, Rose's character, and what was true versus false in the story.

THE OTHER TYPIST is well worth reading even though I had a few issues with the ending. I definitely recommend it to fans of literary fiction!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I'm very curious about the ending now!

Kim@Time2Read said...

I've got about another 70 pages before I finish, so I've bookmarked your review to read after I'm done. Looking forward to it!

Stacie said...

This book is in my pile and now you have me even more curious about it!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Yeah I totally agree with you. Great storytelling and fascinating characters, all set in that Gatsby era! But that ending was a little sneaky and overly COMPLICATED to the point that nobody knows what the hell really happened. What is the point of writing and ending that nobody gets?

Gayle Weiswasser said...

Ok, I am 60 pages in to this book right now so I am going to wait and come back later to comment once I finish. I keep reading "unreliable narrator" and "surprise ending" and I think I should just stop now and wait til I am done. I can't believe she was at the Penguin Bash and I didn't meet her. Damn!

Kim@Time2Read said...

Ok...I finished. I'm not sure WHAT I think at this point. Except I think I'm totally confused. What just happened???

Unknown said...

Never heard of this book before, however after reading your review it is definitely being added to my TBR.

Beth F said...

I loved the ending and that it made be stop and think.