Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Other Typist: 1920's Single, White Female



The Other Typist
Author Suzanne Rindell
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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.

Review: There's no debating that The Other Typist is smartly written. Every part is meticulously executed from the era, dress, character development and attention to detail. The point of view is personally delivered in a recantation of events from the main characters perspective, which lends to the credibility and trustworthiness of our story-teller. Without falling into the trappings of 'flashback' narrative, Rindell uses Rose's therapy purging as means to deliver the story. I rather like the approach, but it does place a certain constraint on what can be revealed.  For example, we can only know or learn about the other characters from Rose - if she isn't privy, neither are we -- so we are left with her speculation, which is hardly reliable. In the end, I was hoping for more of a twist and truly expected it - but it never came, which left me disappointed.  The build up was there and clues revealed, but too many holes made this story a bit dry and dissatisfying. Mostly, because important answers were never given. We get a vague idea of what happens in the end simply because of the point of view and references to a doctor, but places throughout remain too much of mystery for me. Not sure I'd compare this one to The Great Gatsby, perhaps, all it has in common is the time period. I'd lean more towards a 1920's version of Single, White Female if pressed to provide a comparison. 
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*ARC provided by Putnam courtesy of Amazon Vine

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