Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

The Other Typist is Rose’s tale we hear of her life working as a typist in a Police Precinct in Brooklyn, her shared room in a Boarding House with the room divided by a curtain, the other half containing a woman who Rose possibly dislikes, but definitely feels superior to. In 1920s Brooklyn the Prohibition period is in force and the Police Commander has decided that his force should be arresting those running the latest speakeasy which has popped up and then melt away around the city.

Enter Odile, a beautiful graceful creature, one with bags of sophistication, beautiful clothes and an easy manner. Odile is the ‘other typist’ the newest to join the typing pool. Rose is instantly both bewitched and disapproving of Odile, well that is until Odile decides to befriend her which leads to a chain of events that Rose could never have predicted.

The two girls become friends and moving from typing up the statements and sometimes confessions of the local gangsters and crooks, the girls attend the very speakeasy the police force they work for are supposed to be bringing to justice. There is a real sense of place and time in The Other Typist. I could quite have easily joined them on a night out in a beaded dress and sipping the champagne cocktails which were strictly prohibited. I think the secret locations with passwords required to gain entry would only make a night of partying with the select few who were in the know all the more alluring.

Rose narrates her story with a distinctive voice. We hear that Rose was an orphan, who was bought up by nuns but clearly a clever girl; she was one of the lucky ones who got an education. She is so obviously Odile’s inferior on the social scale but Rose has a sense of superiority that outweighs, well nearly, these facts. Indeed Rose’s narrative strongly reminded me of Barbara Covett in Zoe Heller’s novel What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, both require a different label to ‘unreliable narrator’ I suggest ‘nebulous narrator’ is a far more accurate description as even at the end of the book, it was hard to separate the facts from the fiction. Rose’s sense of superiority is an overriding feature of her narrative style, and yet there is a sense that she realises that this is unfounded at times, all of which should make her unlikeable to her reader, but it didn’t, I felt a certain amount of fondness for this spiky young woman. Of course there are a number of other characters who have their parts to play but it must be remembered that all of these characters are viewed through Rose’s eyes, and Rose is only really watching one person, Odile.

Fairly early on in the book we learn that Rose is recounting her story from a hospital and so we get some sense of where the ending might lie, but the fun is entirely in the journey. So we follow Rose to work where she admires the Sergeant but isn’t quite so sure about the Lieutenant. Where she types faster than anyone else, naturally without making any mistakes. A life where she is able to judge how a particular interview will play out and yet she melts into the background where the police, all men of course, go about getting their confessions. We watch as her certainties about right and wrong unravel under Odile’s influence as she whirls around the dance floor with the latest contraband cocktail in hand until life whirls a little bit too fast and the wheels come off.

This was a superb story, even more so when you consider that this is the author’s debut novel and it was one which had me completely entranced with an ending has had me pondering for a good few days now. If like me you had this lingering on some TBR list of one description or another, don’t delay pull it out and read it!

mount-tbr-2017
 
 

First Published UK: 2013
Publisher: Allison & Fig Tree
No of Pages:  369
Genre: Historical Fiction – Psychological
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

31 thoughts on “The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

  1. I do like a novel with a good sense of history and context, Cleo! And this one seems to have some really interesting characters, too. It sounds, too, as though there’s a sense of psychological suspense, too, which also piques my interest. Glad you enjoyed this.

  2. We discussed this book in my mystery group a couple of years ago. I just went back and reread the post I wrote about that. I remember liking this one, but the post states that it was a mixed reaction with our group. Which then meant that the discussion was great. I ought to listen to this one on audio at some point and enjoy the time period. I remember that was pretty vivid.

  3. I loved this book, too, and the story completely drew me in, sweeping me back to the era, to a time when women had no real voice and were “forced” to find their power wherever they could. Rose and Odile were both such interesting characters. (I liked your reference to Notes on a Scandal, which I also loved).

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Ooh, I was quite scared to scroll down and see how many stars you gave this – I’d have been devastated if it was less than 5!! So glad you loved it too! The way she maintained that voice for Rose all the way through was great and I think she’s absolutely brilliant at creating a sense of place – like you, I could imagine myself in the Speakeasy! I’ve had Notes on a Scandal on the wishlist for ages – loved the film. Must push that up the TBR somehow… Fab review! 😀

    PS Three-Martini Lunch is great too, though it’s quite different in tone to this – more literary fiction-ish. Still think you’d love it though…

    1. 🙂 As soon as I opened it I knew I’d love it – and even with the tougher regime it was likely to get the full five stars! Rose’s voice didn’t waver even when her actions did – fascinating and disturbing! Notes on a Scandal is great and one of the few films of books I’ve enjoyed too.
      Thank you for the recommendation and Three-Martini Lunch is firmly on the wishlist 😉

  5. I’ve had this book several times from the library and returned it unread for no logical reason:) your review has reminded me that it’s one I should look at again! I might try it on audio:)

  6. Ooh this sounds good. I went once to a place in New York that used to be a famous speakeasy and they had a secret place to stash the booze in case of a police raid. Wonderful place

  7. Your review made me look it up on Amazon! Love anything about the Prohibition period. It’s still on my list rather than downloaded, though, because some of the other reviews put me off – I wondered if it would be a bit ‘girly’!

  8. I loved this, I’m glad you’ve got to it! Naomi at The Writes Of Women concluded Odile didn’t exist at all, although by the time I read it she’d forgotten how she’d come to that conclusion! It was wonderfully atmospheric. I was also a huge fan of Notes On A Scandal – fabulous book!

  9. Great review, Cleo. I loved The Other Typist as well. I read it a few summers back and I have to admit I forgot all about it though. At the times there were rumours about an upcoming film adaptation with Keira Knightley on the main role, but I’m not sure they are actually producing it anymore. Do you think the story would translate OK as a film? I had my doubts then…

    1. I know what you mean about translating to film but they did well, I thought, with Notes on a Scandal but there are significant differences with this one – the costumes would have been amazing though!

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