“The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell (2013) – 368 pages
One of the big winners of the post-“Gone Girl” sweepstakes has been the debut novel by Suzanne Rindell, “The Other Typist”. Much of the appeal of “The Other Typist” is due to the enchanting voice of the narrator Rose. She works as a typist in a police precinct office in the 1920s. Here she describes her job.
They think we are the weaker sex, but I doubt the men have considered the fact that we women must hear every confession twice. That is, once I’ve taken dictation on the stenotype, I must type it all over again in plain English on the typewriter, as the men cannot read shorthand. To them, the marks on the stenotype rolls appear like hieroglyphics. I don’t mind typing and retyping these stories as much as I know I’m supposed to mind, but it is a bit off-putting to go over the details of a stabbing or bludgeoning just prior to, say, the lunch or dinner hour.
The above is an excellent example of Rose’s delightful voice. She is someone who is proficient at her job, totally devoted to her office and the people she works with. She watches everything that is going on, and forms her own quick opinions as any perceptive young woman would do. Sometimes her conclusions are wrong and she must revise her judgments.
Early in the novel the name of Jane Austen comes up; I’m not sure what the occasion was. From that point on, I couldn’t help thinking of Rose as a Jane Austen heroine. Even though Rose is in entirely different circumstances, she has all the resourceful observant personable qualities of an Elizabeth Bennett or an Elinor Dashwood.
Soon another typist, Odalie, shows up to work in the police office. Odalie is also good at her job. She is a sharp dresser quick to adopt the fashions and styles of the Twenties and very attractive to the men in the police office. She soon has the guys wrapped around her little finger.
. When they asked her would she mind having to hear about the often extremely unsavory acts of the criminals who were brought into the precinct, she laughed her musical, jingling laugh and then dropped into that husky timbre to joke that she was not the sort of girl you might call squeamish, and that it was only her meals at Mouquin’s that she insisted on being particularly savory anyhow
Rose quickly idolizes her and soon the mysterious Odalie asks her to move in with her. Odalie takes Rose to speakeasies, and soon Rose is in the middle of a fast crowd.
There has been much discussion on the Internet about the ending of “The Other Typist”, because it is open to questions and speculation. It is my policy never to include any spoilers or information which might detract from a reader’s enjoyment of a book. However only for people who have read the book, here is a post at Books Are My Favorite and Best that discusses the ending.
“The Other Typist” with its engaging young narrator and quintessential Twenties story is a fun read, not necessarily the most literary or deepest novel, but still a pleasant and entertaining way to spend some time.
Keira Knightley will be starring in the planned “The Other Typist” movie.