BookBrowse Reviews The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Other Typist

A Novel

by Suzanne Rindell

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell X
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2013, 368 pages
    Apr 2014, 368 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book



It is 1923, and a new era for women. In Suzanne Rindell's debut The Other Typist, Rose, a typist in a New York City police precinct, is drawn fully into new typist, Odalie's, high-stakes world.

Oh, how clever Suzanne Rindell was to make her protagonist a writer. Rose Baker is a typist at a New York City police precinct. Her job is to record on a stenograph the confessions that the Sergeant or Lieutenant Detective extract from suspects, and then transcribe her dictation using a typewriter. "I am there," she says, "to make the official and unbiased record that will eventually be used in court. I am there to transcribe what will eventually come to be known as the truth."

If you raised your eyebrow at that phrase - "come to be known as the truth" - you are right. Rose speaks of "the truth" not as an objective thing but as something created. She is hinting of her power within the elaborate process of legally created truth. The reader would do well to pay heed. In an early scene, Rose and her bosses are frustrated at their inability to crack a serial killer whom they know for certain is guilty. Rose solves that problem with just a few keystrokes, and the killer goes to jail. So what implications does this clinical attitude toward the truth have for Rose's first-person narration of her own tale in Rindell's debut The Other Typist?

Rose purports to be a poor orphan, raised by nuns and schooled in a trade by necessity at the Astoria Stenographers College for Ladies. She is prim, stern, and exacting. ("As a moral person, I do not relish hearing these gruesome details" she says of the confessions she types). She espouses a conservative kind of modernism specific to the 1920s, one that allows her to celebrate the technologies that give her gender a new freedom in the workplace, but deplore the sexual freedom of the Jazz Age.

Enter Odalie Lazare, the other typist of the title and the very embodiment of Jazz Age licentiousness. Rose tells us, "Her voice quivered with a sort of tomboy energy that suggested, despite her refined poise and sophistication, she was a robust individual," but also that "the voluptuous glee in Odalie's demeanor hinted at privilege, at a childhood that had been filled with automobiles and tennis courts." Odalie is Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker rolled into one. Rindell cites The Great Gatsby in her acknowledgements and there are many tributes to Fitzgerald's novel in The Other Typist, including a party at a Long Island mansion that might as well be Jay Gatsby's.

Odalie radiates glamour and danger, and before long, she is whisking Rose to speakeasies all around the city [see Beyond the Book]. The novel delights in portraying these secret spaces, such as the wig shop which functions as a "blind," where you must select the correct wig and say the correct sentence in order for the clerk to type a sequence on his cash register to move the wall aside, revealing the lounge within, where a dwarf in red suspenders and a trilby hat serves champagne cocktails—"one part absinthe, two parts champagne." But if Odalie is like Daisy and Jordan, she is also like Jay Gatsby himself, with a mysterious past and a shadowy empire at her fingertips. She is no mere typist, and she soon draws Rose into her illicit dealings.

Or is she? Rose's tale begins to show the sutures where "the truth" is being concocted before our eyes. She mentions the psychiatrist who has recently begun caring for her, and then she talks about the newspapers that have covered the story she is now unfolding for us. Her voice is like a cross between Merricat in Shirley Jackson's overlooked masterpiece, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Humbert Humbert in Nabokov's Lolita. Rindell's version of an unreliable narrator is less deft and layered than either of those books, and aims more to entertain than to unsettle the reader with deeper questions about the narratives by which we live our lives, but Rindell has nonetheless constructed a suspenseful story with a propulsive pace. We know something will go wrong, but she leaves the reader guessing until the final pages exactly who will fall and exactly how the typist has transcribed her own confession.

Reviewed by Amy Reading

This review was originally published in July 2013, and has been updated for the April 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Speak No Evil
    Speak No Evil
    by Uzodinma Iweala
    Young Nigerian American writer Uzodinma Iweala is fast becoming known as a powerful chronicler of ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter
    by Ali Smith
    "God was dead; to begin with." This first sentence of Winter perfectly sets up the dreamy journey ...
  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

  • Book Jacket: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano

    A charming, bighearted novel starring Auntie Poldi, Sicily's newest amateur sleuth.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One N U G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.