Review: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

3rd July 2013

pg1*I received this book from the publisher, Riverhead Books, in exchange for an honest review.

In the opening pages of The Other Typist, beginning with the first line, “They said the typewriter would unsex us,” Suzanne Rindell immediately displays her writing chops, linking the typewriter, the women who use them, and the distance between the woman and the men for whom she types in a fitting criticism of the workplace in the 1920s.

Rose Baker is a typist for the police department, transcribing the confessions of those who walk through the precinct. She marvels at being thought too weak to handle the graphic talk, aptly pointing out that as a typist, she must hear the confession twice – once as it is dictated and again, as she types it.  Rose presents herself as clever, punctilious, and slightly prudish, a fact excused by her past – an orphan, she was raised by nuns.

But the other typist – Odalie – switches everything up. As Rose says, when Odalie enters the precinct, “I knew: It was like the eye of a hurricane. She was the dark epicenter of something we didn’t quite understand yet, the place where hot and cold mixed dangerously, and around her everything would change.”

Drawn in immediately by the confessional nature of Rose’s tale, the reader has no choice but to wonder at the tone Rose takes when she talks about the vivacious Odalie. At first wary of Odalie, Rose soon becomes enamored of someone so different from herself, calculatingly vying for her friendship. When Odalie does turn her light on Rose, it’s fast and bright, and Rose can’t turn away, bound by the dangerous mix of glamour and daring that Odalie exudes.

Along the way there are signs of distress, but Rose is in too deep, and the rumors of an inappropriate relationship with a nun hint at the possibility that Rose feels romantically toward Odalie, adding to her dependency. At the same time, The Other Typist briefly comments on the changing social sphere as well, as Rose says,

In a flash it came to me, and I suddenly understood something about my own generation….Their youth was what kept them moving, a sort of brutal vitality lingering in their muscles and bones that was all too often mistaken for athleticism and grace. But their innocence was something they were obligated to go on faking in order to maintain the illusion something fresh and spontaneous and exciting was just around the next corner.

But for Rose, the reality is that something spontaneous and exciting is around the corner; it just may not be what she thinks.

The Other Typist, though not as tight as perhaps the deft fiction of Sarah Waters, is an enthralling read I’d  compare to Affinity. It’s well worth the read as well as the edginess most readers will feel as Rindell unwinds this novel of love, obsession, and corruption.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    The audio version is very well done, too! This was a combination read/listen for me…and I’m still not sure what actually happened at the end.

    • pickygirl

      I started seeing what was going on pretty early, but like I said, a lot of what happened was very similar to another author I like. So by the end, even though it was a surprise, it didn’t totally catch me off guard.

    • Haha! The only reason I know is that I love these twisty sorts of books and started figuring out exactly what was going to happen. Crazy!

  • Andi

    Intrigued! Must read!

  • Ti Reed

    I have this one. It sounds really interesting. I am fascinated by the art of translation and this would be sort of like that. Transcribing is a form of translation too. So much depends on how you do it. If you miss something, the context of what is said could change, etc. Interesting.

    • Most definitely! And the first pages alone were so good that I knew I would enjoy it. The author has done something pretty cool in this one.

  • omg, wantwantwant!!

    • I honestly think you’ll love it. There’s a sense of dread almost from the very beginning.

  • I have only heard amazing things about this book. It’s all over the blogosphere and people seem to love it. Guess I need to get my hands on a copy.

    • I tend not to trust a book when all the news is good, but this one is really well done. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good.

  • iliana

    Oh you compared this to Affinity, which I love! I must read this. Great review, Jenn!

    • Thanks! And oh my, yes. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  • For some reason, I always passed over this book. Your review however makes this book sound very intriguing. I will have to add it to my list.

    • When I first heard about it, I wasn’t so sure either, but I thought the author was pretty artful in the way the plot is laid out. Interesting for sure.

  • I’m looking forward to this one but the hype is too much for me right now–especially as I’ve seen things that I wish I could unsee (to me knowing that there is a twist is just as much a spoiler as knowing what the twist is). That first sentence is an attention getter, huh?!

    • pickygirl

      I completely understand. I can’t stand reading something when I’ve seen it all over the web. Luckily, I read this way before the hype began.

    • I totally get that. Luckily I got this one well before any hype.

      And yes, knowing about a twist is pretty spoiler-y. But I still think it’s worth a look.

  • The Book Wheel

    I snagged an autographed copy of this book and am looking forward to reading it!

    • Oh, wow! Good for you.

  • BookBelle

    I just finished. Oh. My. What a very lovely read this was. 5 stars for me.

    • Awesome! So glad you enjoyed this.

  • Grace

    I just finished reading this – and stayed up past 3 am to do it. I loved it, even though I’m still quite unsure what actually happened. But in a good way! Five stars for me.

    • Oh wow! 3 a.m. books are typically pretty good. 😉

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