Friday, July 26, 2013

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell



The Other Typist
by Suzanne Rindell
narrated by Gretchen Mol
Penguin Audio, 2013
10 hours and 6 minutes
source: review copy from publisher

Hardcover
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2013
368 pages
source: purchased

Publisher's summary:

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.

My thoughts:

Could Rose be crazy? That possibility dawned on me fairly early as I listened to The Other Typist. Something is not quite right in Rose's voice, in her manner, as she recounts this tale of obsession, glamour, and extravagance set against a backdrop of prohibition, corruption, and, eventually, murder in 1920's New York City.

This Gatsby-esque drama drew me in right away, yet I felt slightly off-kilter somehow throughout Rose's narrative. Near the halfway mark, I found that there wasn't enough listening time (CDs in the car) and ended up purchasing a hardcover copy.

I turned the pages quickly, yet lingered over passages like this:
"After all, summer was over. It had abandoned us, leaving behind a feeling of dissatisfaction, and taking with it all those too oft unfulfilled beach-day aspirations of a brown-skinned, primitive freedom. The weather would turn cold before we knew it and drive us back into the cramped and stuffy steam-heated rooms we called civilization." page 308-309
The final pages, however, left me stunned and speechless - what the heck just happened??  Now I don't mind an open ending, but this is ambiguity in the extreme, folks. In fact, some might claim that it's just plain confusing.

Either way, The Other Typist  leaves the reader with a delicious dilemma to puzzle over... one my book club could spend an entire meeting discussing. I'm still trying to work out what actually happened.

A note on audio production:
Gretchen Mol is a new-to-me narrator and I loved  her portrayal of Rose. Her carefully measured delivery perfectly captured Rose's holier than thou, know it all attitude. The Other Typist  is her only credit at audible, but I will keep an ear on her career!

My rating:




Bottom line: The Other Typist  is another winner from the Amy Einhorn imprint, but if you prefer books with a neatly packaged ending, then run, don't walk, in the opposite direction.



32 comments:

  1. I just watched a French movie with a very ambiguous ending ... but based on what you've written here, I think getting to this book's 'huh?' ending would be more fun!

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    1. AUdrey - Yes, this was a very enjoyable ride!

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  2. I LOVE ambiguity!!! I'm so intrigued with this one.

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    1. Andi - This is the ultimate ambiguity!

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  3. I loved the narration, and I loved the whole ambiguity and mysterious and threatening fog that hangs over everything. But the end just pissed me off. I didn't understand what happened...I don't think ANYONE understands what happened. So what is the point?

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    1. Sandy - The ending certainly is open to interpretation... wish the author would just tell us her intention.

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  4. This sounds intriguing - I like books that don't offer a nice neat ending and that make you think.

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    1. Sam - Sometimes a neat ending seems like the easy way out.

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  5. I loved this ending. I agree that it was incredibly ambiguous but there are enough hints throughout the book that make you wonder just how surprising the ending should be. I agree that there is enough there to fill several book club discussions.

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    1. Michelle - Yes, there were definitely plenty of hints, but I still needed to read the last few pages a couple of times!

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  6. I'm not fond of endings that leave me not knowing what's going on but this book does intrigue me and my library does have an audio copy.

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    1. Darlene - Gretchen Moll did an excellent job with the narration. I think you'll enjoy the audio.

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  7. I've heard about the ending from Carrie (Books and Movies). I don't mind ambiguous endings too much so I think I'll give this one a listen.

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    1. Vasilly - This really is a great audiobook... such a clever story, too.

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  8. I am one of those people that doesn't love ambiguity at the end of a novel, but you've made this sound really interesting!

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    1. Col - Well, this may leave you pretty frustrated if you're not a fan of ambiguity. Consider yourself warned ;-)

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  9. Well, you've made me very curious about the ending now.

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  10. I liked the book but I wasn't thrilled with the ambiguous ending. I listened to the epilogue three times thinking I missed something. But I didn't. Rose is so unreliable that the ending changes depending on what parts of her story one believes. So the ending does work ... even though I would have prefered more clarity.

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    1. Leslie - I ended up rereading the last several pages, too... and there really are a couple of plausible outcomes. Like you say, it depends on which part of Roses's story you buy into!

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  11. I am not very happy with vague endings! I don't think this one is for me.

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    1. Mystica - You might want to skip this one, lol!

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  12. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one left scratching my head over the ending. I was fine with it up until the last sentence, then I was like, "Wait...WHAT??? Did I miss something?"

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    1. Diana Leigh - That seems to be the typical reaction among readers I've spoken to!

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  13. Definitely sounds like a great book for discussion. I've still got a slot to fill for book club this year and this might just be the book!

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    1. Lisa - This definitely merits some consideration!

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  14. I want to read this one...wait, I just might listen to it instead!! I love the idea of the ending because they always get my blood boiling and my imagination in high gear!!!

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    1. Staci - This is really good on audio - the narrator captures Rose perfectly. The ending is sure to get you going, lol!

      BTW, I finished The Good House (audio) a couple days ago - WOW! That was one of the best narrations ever. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  15. Stunned and speechless? I really have to read this one. I have it, but it's got a few books in front of it.

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    1. Ti - Yep, stunned and speechless. Almost want to read this again to see what clues I missed.

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  16. Extreme ambiguity is best left for book clubs so it can provide the discussion (and venting) it needs.

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    1. Stacybuckeye - I sure needed to vent at the end of this book ;-)

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