Summary and book reviews of The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

The Other Typist

A Novel

by Suzanne Rindell

The Other Typist
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  • First Published:
    May 2013, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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About this Book

Book Summary

For fans of The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Great Gatsby comes one of the most memorable unreliable narrators in years.

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.



1

They said the typewriter would unsex us. One look at the device itself and you might understand how they— the self-appointed keepers of female virtue and morality, that is—might have reached such a conclusion. Your average typewriter, be it Underwood, Royal, Remington, or Corona, is a stern thing, full of gravity, its boxy angles coming straight to the point, with no trace of curvaceous tomfoolery or feminine whimsy. Add to that the sheer violence of its iron arms, thwacking away at the page with unforgiving force. Unforgiving. Yes; forgiving is not the typewriter's duty.

I don't suppose I know much about the business of forgiveness, either, as my job has so much to do with the other end of it. Confessions, I mean. Not that I extract them— that is for the Sergeant to do. Or for the Lieutenant Detective to do. But it is not for me to do. Mine is a silent job. Silent, that is, unless you consider the gunshot clacking of the typewriter that sits before ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Do you think Rose is a reliable or unreliable narrator? Why? If you did question her veracity, at what point in the novel did you begin to do so?

  2. Why is Rose so captivated by Odalie, someone she wholly disapproves of initially?

  3. Through Odalie, Rose gains entry into a world she's never seen before, one filled with opulence and rich, glamorous people. Clearly Rose is an outsider who doesn't belong. Yet she seems to take to it all rather quickly. Why do you think this is so? Why, despite all the new people she comes into contact with, is Odalie the only one she seems to be charmed by?

  4. Some readers may think that Rose is a lesbian. Do you? Why or why not? Might her Victorian sensibility, when viewed by a contemporary reader, be ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Rindell's 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. Her version of an unreliable narrator is less deft and layered than either of those books, but she has nonetheless constructed a suspenseful story with a propulsive pace.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

Full Review Members Only (693 words).

Media Reviews

NPR

It's a riveting ride.

The Paris Review

[F]rom the first page [I] was absorbed: I haven't been able to put it down . . . reminds me at points of Notes on a Scandal and Patricia Highsmith, but has creepy charms all its own

The Paris Review

[F]rom the first page [I] was absorbed: I haven't been able to put it down . . . reminds me at points of Notes on a Scandal and Patricia Highsmith, but has creepy charms all its own

Publishers Weekly

Though the final twist...is hinted at too often, Rindell's debut is a cinematic page-turner.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A deliciously addictive, cinematically influenced page-turner, both comic and provocative, about the nature of guilt and innocence within the context of social class in a rapidly changing culture.

Author Blurb Alice LaPlante, author of Turn of Mind
This eerie and compelling debut is a riveting page-turner, narrated by a strangely hypnotic yet dubious young woman who works as a typist for the NYPD in the 1920s. Don't start this novel at night if you need your beauty sleep—you'll stay up to all hours devouring its pages.

Author Blurb Rita Mae Brown, MFH, Author
As you read this remarkable first novel you will feel the room temperature drop. It's chilling till the very end.

Author Blurb Alison Atlee, author of The Typewriter Girl
You could make a one-sitting read of The Other Typist: it maintains the riveting dance of question-provoking answers that earn page-turners their name, and Suzanne Rindell's Jazz Age NYC is gritty, glamorous, and utterly absorbing. . . .Whenever you close the covers, have a book friend handy—you'll want to talk about The Other Typist.

Author Blurb B.A. Shapiro, New York Times–bestselling author of The Art Forger
The Other Typist is a twisty yarn that drives the reader through the story in a frenzied quest to discover what's real and what isn't. Rose, the unreliable narrator, tells the tale of an even more unreliable woman, and Suzanne Rindell plays them both to perfection.

Author Blurb Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver
Suzanne Rindell messes with your head. The Other Typist pretends to be the story of a nice young woman entering the cutthroat world of police work in 1920's New York. But it's New York, not the nice young woman, who should be trembling. I had a blast reading this and had my nerves scrambled by the end.

Reader Reviews

CarolK

160 Words A Minute!
An all out character driven novel with a slow building plot with quite an ending. My kind of book! and should make a great book discussion. Rindell fleshes out her character(s) quite well, with excellent narration, reliable or not, by Rose, the ...   Read More

Diane S.

The Other Typist
I am not quite sure why but I seem to have read a few novels lately that have a naive young woman and another manipulative one. This one is very well written, a psychological tour de force, with an unreliable narrator and different revelations that ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Speakeasies in the Age of Prohibition

The Drunkard's ProgressProhibition came into effect in January 1920, one year to the day after the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified. It was a victory for the Anti-Saloon League, which had campaigned since 1893 to outlaw alcohol in order protect women and children from the effects of drunken husbands and to increase productivity among workers.

But it was simultaneously a victory for the crafts of subterfuge and bribery. Prohibition was, of course, a gigantic opportunity for the underground economy, and bootleggers and gangsters took full advantage. Their payoffs to New York City officials totaled at least $60 million a year. Speakeasies ("blind pigs," "jimmies") bloomed on every street corner, each with its own way of outsmarting law enforcement. The 21 Club...

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