Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Alice's Review: The Other Typist

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.

Review: There are times you pick up a novel and it hooks you in from the very first line. It isn’t always clear what gets you right away, all you know is that you must read it, usually as quickly as possible, because there is no rest until you find out the who, why, what, and how. The Other Typist is that for me.

From the moment I read the description of the novel, I knew it was something I wanted to devour. I am so glad I read The Other Typist. I loved it and everything about it: The characters, the setting, the glamour, the mystery cloaking Odalie, but mostly I loved trying to figure out what makes our narrator Rose tick.

Rose has to be my favorite character in a long, long time. She is an awkward, meticulous woman who works as a typist for a New York City Police Precinct in 1924. (Oh what a glorious time it was! Confession time, I am a fan of the TV show Boardwalk Empire. I kept expecting see Nucky Thompson make an appearance in this novel. I digress.) She’s very proper and regimented. She likes things a certain way and has no time for fun or humor. Rose’s world gets a major shift when the precinct hires the very glamorous and mysterious Odalie. The women form an unlikely bond and so the whirlwind begins. Be prepared to be dazzled and knocked off your rocker, because it is quite a ride.

The Other Typist is written beautifully. It sparks the imagination. The mystery involving the two leading women is the real star of this novel. The pleasure came in trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t. There is one thing I am left wondering. Ms. Rindell went through the trouble to write a novel that was so vivid, with so much detail, yet at the very end we are left hanging with a dozen questions and no way to answer them. I’m not upset about this, but a solid conclusion would have propelled this novel from a 4 star review into a 5 star review. Even so, this was a fantastic novel. One I am so glad I read and one I will definitely recommend. This novel is perfect for a book clubs because you need to talk about it. The Other Typist gets inside your head and stays there, making you nuts with theories.

And if you don’t believe me, read Julie’s review here.

 Final Take: 4/5


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