Summary: One of the most fascinating, unreliable narrators you’ll read this year, for fans of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Rules of Civility. It is 1923. Rose Baker is a typist in the New York City Police Department on the lower east side. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their crimes, and like a high priestess, Rose records their every word. Often she is the only woman present. And while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves that room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for making coffee. It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. Now women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood. But 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 her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover. ~powells.com
Review: You are in for a ride when you crack open The Other Typist. It weaves and twists from the first page. It is a little slow to start but once you get about 50 pages in the pace begins to pick up. We are quickly taken back to a time when women are finally entering the workforce but still only allowed to do certain job and being a typist/stenographer is one of those jobs. The narrator of the story is Rose. She is a prim and proper lady. She's not to be mistaken with those girls who have cut their hair off and raised their hemlines. No, she is a true, dignified lady. She takes her job at the police precinct very seriously and admires the Sergeant greatly.
We are quickly introduced to Odalie the new typist for the precinct. Odalie is the opposite of Rose in the way that she embraces the new culture of the world. She's open to the new world for women. Her hair is cut into a bob and she wears frilly clothes. There is something about Odalie that is not to be trusted but there is also something very off about Rose as well.
We are quickly taken into Odalie's underworld of speakeasies and glamour. It is quite easy for Rose to want to get absorbed by Odalie's world because she's never experienced it. It is easy for Rose to bask in the glow of Odalie's friendship because she's never experienced that before.
Not even halfway in the novel the narrative starts to shift and this is where the intrigue begins to set in. Ms. Rindell does an excellent job of switching gears and making the reader scratch their head in wonder. Is Rose to be trusted? Are we seeing the real Odalie through her eyes? Is everything as it seems?
As the book begins to draw to a close your mind as a reader goes in several different directions. I have to say, I figured a bit of it out but was thrown by the very last sentence. (So for you people who read the last sentence of books first, don't.) There are a few things that didn't tie in the end that have left me hanging but other than that it is an stellar debut.
This is definitely a book that lends itself well to be discussed. There are a lot of layers to The Other Typist and Ms. Rindell handles it very well. It is the sort of book that builds on itself.
For those of you who like to solve riddles, The Other Typist is for you.
Final Take: 4.25/5
You can check out our Hashtag Book Club discussion by searching on #TheOtherTypist
Thanks to Amy Einhorn Books for my ARC of the novel.