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The Other Typist by Suzanne RindellThe Other Typist
Author: Suzanne Rindell
Narrator: Gretchen Mol
Audiobook Length: 10 hours, 6 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Origins: Penguin Audio
Release Date: 7 May 2013
Bottom Line: Brilliant psychological thriller with an absolutely stunner of an ending

“It is 1923. Rose Baker is a typist in the New York City Police Department on the lower east side. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their crimes, and like a high priestess, Rose records their every word. Often she is the only woman present. And while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves that room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for making coffee.
It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. Now women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood.
But 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 her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.”
Thoughts: Rose Baker has not had the easiest life. Orphaned, she feels strongly the lack of emotional connection typically fostered among families. Raised among nuns, her sense of propriety is especially fervent. However, her demand for proper etiquette does not extend to her career as one of the leading typists within the police department. While there, she can relish the appalling behavior of others while remaining proud of her own stellar deportment. This all changes upon the arrival of Odalie, a new typist within the precinct and one with decidedly modern ideals. Soon, Odalie takes Rose under her wing, something which Rose will never forget. Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist explores the confusing boundaries from when the Victorian era morphed into the Jazz Age. As tradition meets progress and old standards quickly become ridiculous, Rose must navigate her way through this tumultuous time, following Odalie’s lead in what may prove to be her saving grace – or her downfall.

Nothing about The Other Typist is as it seems. Rose reveals herself early on as an unreliable narrator with references to her doctor and his opinions. Then there is the ease with which the characters shed one persona for another. Everyone with whom Rose comes into contact is either hiding a secret or becomes a different person at night with its lure of hidden speakeasies and illicit booze. This holds true for the story as well, as the plot takes some completely unexpected twists that leave a reader wondering what happened, using more than a few curse words in shock and frustration, and filled with awe at the masterful way in which Ms. Rindel manipulates her characters and a reader.

Gretchen Mol has the ideal voice for Rose. There is a properness to it that meshes perfectly with Rose’s prudishness and insistence on correct etiquette while allowing the hints of darkness pervade her performance as necessary. As a result, it is very easy for a listener to envision Rose’s indignation at some of Odalie’s escapades, Rose’s growing comfort with Odalie’s progressiveness, and her own transformation into a modern woman. More importantly, Ms. Mol gives nothing away regarding Rose’s ultimate fate. Her remoteness not only plays perfectly into Rose’s insistence upon propriety, it also allows Rose to tell her own story and readers to draw their own conclusions about what really happened between the girls. It is a strong performance for a difficult novel to narrate.

The Other Typist is the type of novel that begs to be hotly debated. With the prevailing ambiguity and its heavy use of psychology, the story leaves plenty of room for interpretation, while the shock-and-awe aspects of the story will both thrill and frustrate readers. In a year where every other novel has been declared as the next Gone Girl, Ms. Rindel has managed to provide just that. The Other Typist is every bit as twisted and misleading as Gillian Flynn’s smash hit but may even be more enjoyable given the brilliance of the ending. This is one novel that deserves to be on everyone’s must-read list.

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