Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Other Typist - review by Arianna

The Other Typist
Suzanne Rindell
4 / 5

Published 2013

First Sentence
"They said the typewriter would unsex us."
Publisher's Description:
New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition and the whole city swims in bathtub gin.

Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.

But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist's spell. As do her bosses, the buttoned up Lieutenant Detective and the fatherly Sergeant. As the two girls' friendship blossoms and they flit between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the precinct by day, it is not long before Rose's fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession.

But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out?
Dear Reader,

Wow.  What a fun book!  It took me a little while to get into, but once I started really catching the pace of the story, it was really great reading.  The story revolves around Rose, a fairly reserved and conservative woman who works in a police precinct as a typist in 1929.  While she has no trouble stomaching some of the awful things she hears at work, she is still very proper and believes in the moral right.  So her world is shaken when her new coworker Odalie joins the ranks at the precinct.  Odalie is everything that Rose is not: adventurous, easygoing, unbridled in her passion.  Something in her draws Rose in, and the story unfolds as the friendship between the two develops.

The great thing about the book is all the twists and turns that it takes.  While I really enjoyed the period writing (clothing, speakeasies, and attitudes discussed, among many other things), what was the most intriguing was seeing the story between the two girls develop.  As they grew closer, back-stories revealed themselves, and really drew the reader in.  Rose writes the book as a memoir of sorts, reflecting on the time in her past life when she was so charmed by Odalie that she would do anything for her - even things which would otherwise be against her own, much more reserved nature.

While it's been years since the sort of thing has happened to me, I also really identified with the idea of having a friend you idolize, who makes you want to be more adventurous, more like her.  I recall having friends like that in high school, who I wanted to be just like.  But I was never bold or pretty enough, in my own eyes.  I could really understand why Rose latched onto Odalie to such an extent, although of course I am glad to say that, ultimately, my obsession or devotion would not have gone quite as far as Rose's (I hope).

This book reminded me quite a bit of the musical Chicago, actually - a brassy, brazen woman who epitomizes the flapper ideal of the era, taking a mouse under her wing and transforming her into a much bolder woman, herself.  I'm sure it helps that the time periods of both pieces pretty much coincided.

I would definitely recommend this book.  Really just a fun read for all the mind games it plays, if nothing else!


P.S. Check out what Amber had to say about this book!

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