The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Champagne and chameleons…

😀 😀 😀 😀

the other typistIt’s Prohibition Era in America and the police in Brooklyn have been tasked with closing down the speakeasies that have sprung up around the district. To help with the extra workload a new typist is hired, the charming and beautiful Odalie. At first, Rose, the narrator, is a little jealous of the attention Odalie receives from all quarters, but when Odalie decides to befriend her, Rose quickly falls under her spell. Even as she realises that Odalie might have some dark secrets, Rose can’t resist the new and exciting lifestyle to which Odalie has introduced her.

The movie rights to this début novel have apparently been grabbed by Keira Knightley in conjunction with Fox Searchlight, and I can see why. Knightley would make an excellent Odalie – all Twenties It Girl on the outside, but underneath, chameleon-like, ambiguous, secretive and perhaps wicked. Or perhaps all these attributes are merely inventions of the obsessed Rose, a narrator who is profoundly unreliable. She lets slip quite quickly that she’s telling us her story from an institution, where she has ended up as a result of the events she is about to narrate, and it’s fairly clear that the doctor whose care she is under is of the psychiatric rather than the medical kind.

The book is not unflawed. In common with so much current crime writing, it is grossly overlong for its content, with huge stretches where nothing happens to move the plot forward at all. After a good start, I really struggled to maintain my interest level through the seemingly endless middle – it could easily have lost 100-150 pages and been a better book as a result. There are frequent digressions and little bits of side stories that never go anywhere, and far too much foreshadowing of the “but that would come later” variety in a not very successful attempt to hold the reader’s attention. I suspect the author’s intention was to give a fullness and depth to her carefully recreated world of speakeasies and bootleggers, but I felt she had achieved this perhaps more quickly than she realised, leaving all the rest feeling like repetitious filler.

I'm assuming Keira Knightley will be playing Odalie, but of course she may choose to play Rose. Which would be...intriguing...
I’m assuming Keira Knightley will be playing Odalie, but of course she may choose to play Rose. Which would be…intriguing…

However, this is one where the positives very definitely outweigh the negatives. Rose is an excellent creation. She tells her tale in a rather stilted language, rather like the voice of someone pretending to be a social class higher than she is, or pretending to a level of education she doesn’t properly have. It’s sustained beautifully throughout the novel, giving her a very definite personality – one that shouldn’t be likeable but somehow manages to get the reader onside anyway. I think it was a risky and brave decision to use such a distinctive and stylised voice in a début, since I certainly spent the first few chapters wondering if it was the author’s own voice that felt stilted, but once I’d become confident that the voice was Rose’s, I greatly admired the skill with which it had been done. (Of course, if her next novel turns out to be in the same voice, I shall delete this… 😉 )

Because we only see through Rose’s eyes, the other characters are somewhat nebulous, changing depending on Rose’s opinion of them at any given point. Rose tells us she was brought up by nuns in an orphanage, so starts with a strict moral code and a prudish, judgemental attitude about the behaviour of all around her. Under Odalie’s influence, not to mention the champagne cocktails, her morals might slip a little but her feelings of moral superiority never do. In some ways she’s clear-sighted about her own weaknesses, but she’s a mistress of the art of self-justification. She’s jealous of Odalie in both senses – jealous of her easy charm and sophistication, and also jealous of her showing favour to anyone else. Rose assures us so often that her feelings towards Odalie are not “unnatural” that it seems as if perhaps they must be…

Suzanne Rindell
Suzanne Rindell

From about the halfway point, it becomes fairly clear where the book is heading, but this isn’t a weakness. The fun from there on is that the reader knows something Rose doesn’t know and, again, I feel the way Rindell handles this is extremely skilful. There’s enough humour in the book to keep it entertaining (except through that middle portion), but the plot at the heart of it has both darkness and depth. Rindell says in her afterword that she had deliberately nodded to Gatsby in places as a kind of homage to her favourite book. Yes, she has, in terms of the parties and lifestyle, but she has wisely made no attempt to cover the same subject matter nor pretend that her book comes from the same mould. This is historical crime, well written, cleverly plotted and with great, original characterisation, and I very much look forward to seeing how Rindell develops in future books. I hope that film gets made…

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

PS Last night I was European. Today I’m British. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I’m going to bed now and I may be some time. If they announce another referendum, don’t wake me… 😉

59 thoughts on “The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

  1. Oh, this novel does sound like a great read, FictionFan. I do like the setting and context, and the plot sounds engaging, too. Funny you’d mention the book’s length. I see so many books like that these days. It definitely makes me wonder where the push has come from to lengthen books, even without any substantive reason to do so. Still, sounds like this is very much worth the read.

    • An excellent debut – I have her second book Three Martini Lunch to read in the next couple of weeks and I’m hoping it’ll be just as good. Intriguingly it seems to be very different from this one. Saggy middle syndrome seems to be taking over the world – I don’t understand it. I have no objection to long books if they need to be long, but I’d rather read two short books than one that is twice the length it needs to be.

  2. Wonderful! I’m adding this today! I’ve been looking for such a book. However, I am fearful of a long middle section. Too bad in her nod to Gatsby, she didn’t follow Fitzgerald’s trim prose. (I am impressed you posted today! Those results came late in the night. I hope you take a very long chocolate break today, dear FF. No doubt my chocolate quota has gone up and will continue until fall.)

    • Oh, I hope you enjoy it – a real entertaining read, sometimes just what’s needed! I have her next book to read, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how she develops. (Ha! It was already done, so I posted it just before I went to bed after the night from hell. I can’t believe what we’ve done, and I fear it’s made me think that if we can do somthing terminally stupid, so can America. Oh, I hope not, though! Boris, Trump and Putin? Will even Canada be safe??)

  3. Yes. Well. I think I’m left so profoundly anxious and deeply depressed by those voting events that even your cheery post can’t lift me. Its deeply disturbing that the only people saying ‘well done!’ ‘courageous UK, hurrah!’ are the far right and other strangely loose cannoned individuals. There were better ways to deal with the undoubted real concerns of ‘the people’ than this. I’m not sure that reading auguries from the innards of birds and the like would not have been a better solution to follow, rather than listening to the seeming sweet talk of those promising golden uplands for ever, 350 billion a week to spend on the largest fattest cake for all, and no more Johnny Foreigner to have to share the cake with. We might laugh at the credulity of the ancients, believing in those auguries. Not convinced we are any less credulous, nor that Farage, Johnson et al were any more to be believed than the gizzard of a bird.

    • You think it’s bad down there? Sturgeon’s started the 2nd indy ref bandwagon rolling again already and howling nationalists are roaming the street, seeking whom they can devour. Funny how England can accept, however reluctantly, a 52/48 split, but Scots can’t accept 55/45. One is apparently a ‘clear’ decision, the other is ‘close’ – god, I hate political people. So looks like there will be border controls between us soon, m’dear. But you won’t want to come up here anyway, ‘cos since we can’t have the pound and don’t want the Euro, presumably we’ll be doing all our trading by barter. Trying to get my head round why we don’t want to be ruled by the English but don’t mind being ruled by the Germans…

      I feel sick.

  4. Oops. Hit a b instead of an m. Mind you, as the campaign was full of made up figures anyway, it hardly matters. Of course NOW Farage is saying that there isn’t 350 whatever was its – millions, smarties? – going to the NHS and it was a mistaken claim. Yeah. Right. If I wasn’t vegetarian I’d be out looking for bird gizzards to read………………

    • Yeah, I wonder how they’ll all feel when all the projects supported by the EU in poorer parts of the country suddenly stop. Westminster had a much worse track record of redistributing wealth than the EU ever had…

      Did I mention I feel sick?

        • Ha! Well, that almost made me laugh, so I must be recovering…

          This tweet on Friday morning from someone I don’t know at all did make me laugh though, but in a kind of hysterical way…

          “i woke up and we’re leaving the eu, the prime-minister’s quit, boris johnson’s up for it now and donald trump has landed in scotland WTF”

          My feelings exactly!

  5. Ooo, what happens! I bet someone dies, huh? You must tell me more. Odalie is such an interesting name, too. (I think she has black and blond hair. That’s a thing.)

    Wait…you don’t live in Europe anymore?

    • Well, I shouldn’t really tell you, but… Odalie and Ruth end up having a jiu jitsu contest and Odalie accidentally kills Ruth during an unfortunate triangle mishap! After she got out of prison, she went on to become a WWE star and is fighting Brock next week…

      Now, be honest, Mr I-don’t-like-girls! Isn’t she just stunningly gorgeous in that pic? Even you would love to flirt with her, I do believe…

      Tragically not. European one day, British the next, and probably Scottish within a year – I don’t know who I am anymore… I’m feeling remarkably grumpy, you know, you know… *stomps off*

      • *laughs* I actually love that version. Truth: You can be killed in a triangle. Good call. Did you know…now that you brought it up…Brock is returning to UFC! (Which means, he’ll not be doing fake wrestling anymore…but fighting using jits!) #cool

        Hmm… *looks* I don’t know. What color are her eyes? She’s not ugly, but I don’t flirt, of course. There. Look how mean I was. And it’s your fault, too.

        *laughs* You’re still European! Scotland is in Europe, after all. But…now that we’re at this…I don’t want to be North American anymore. I think I’d like to be African. I say we switch all around. (Don’t let politics bother you…just give it…the…you know.)

        • How awful that would be! Imagine the shape they’d have to build the coffin! What is UFC? But it must still be fake… like his muscles… *runs off quickly*

          She has beautiful brown eyes to set off her gorgeous, perfect bone structure! *spits* Hahaha! Don’t use that line when you’re flirting under a late harvest moon… some strange girls might not see it as a compliment, you know, you know…

          (But they’ve destroyed my country! You should beat them all for me – 17 million of them, so it shouldn’t take too long! Bring MM.) I thought you loved being American!! But let’s! African sounds good, but… heat, insects, my fair skin. How about the Arctic? Or Mars… there’s no politicians on Mars. Yet.

          • I’ve been nearly chocked out like that before…very uncomfortable. *nods* His muscles are fake, you’re quite right. It’s ultimate fighting championship…quite real, mind!

            *laughs* You’re funny! Don’t draw attention to her if you’re jealous! She’s okay. Blue eyes are better. I don’t flirt under the moon, I give it dirty messages. And it never minds, you know.

            (No! They’ve freed your from socialism! Well, started the ball moving. Haha. Come to the US!) I do!!! But, look what I’ve got in the white house! You think you have problems. And look at my two future president options. Maybe Mars is a good choice. Let’s go. We can forget politics there. You must use that sun stuff, maybe.

            • Do attempt not to get yourself killed, please! I would be most annoyed! So who’s the ultimate fighter?

              I was trying not to be jealous but it just seemed to overcome me. Did I mention she also has beautiful skin tone and a great complexion? *growls* I like that you only thinks she’s okay! *proud* Though I fear it may mean you have exceptionally standards. Nah, I bet you serenade girls with beautiful guitar music by the light of the moon… *swoons*

              (We really must talk about why you have this belief that Britain/Europe is socialist!! We’re capitalists! We just choose to look after the poor too. Or we did. Haha! I’m not sure I’d get on much better with US politics!) I think Obama’s great – it’s a pity the mean Republicans keep blocking him or he could have made America much more like Europe! *nods* And you’ll grow to love Hillary… *chuckles* Yeah, let’s go! Haha! Well, OK, but I was planning on packing clothes…

            • If I die, I died like a warrior. *tribune salute* Umm…not sure there is one! That’s just what it’s called, see.

              Now, now. Don’t let that full you. There’s obviously a light shining on her from the left. Her face is lit up on that side. And nowadays, with all the cool editing programs (for lighting, skin tone and texture) one can’t be sure what’s real, see? Haha. Never have done that!

              (Nah, you’re as socialist as my kiwi collection. Though, interestingly enough, we’ll be joining you soon, I fear. That’s why I’m going to pluto, the sudden.) You think that Jihadi communist is great? FEF! I’m…going…to…make you read a rotten book!! (Because Europe is such a beacon of light.) Things must be better on Pluto. The feminist in you shouldn’t like that she stood by while Bill raped girls! Oh no. No clothes. Traveling light. I mean, just what you have on.

            • *tribune salute too* Yeah, but don’t die anyway! You could be it, then…

              Thank you – I feel much better now!! *laughs* Poor Keira! You should!! You will one day, I bet… *kinda jealous again*

              I’m not sure what you mean by socialist but I think it’s different from what we think of it as! Our economy is capitalist – it relies on the markets, on private enterprise. The only ‘socialist’ part is how we choose to spend our taxes, and even at that we’re only remotely socialist about health and education. Which means people don’t die for lack of drugs or have to fund-raise for essential treatment. Even you must think that sounds good.

              (Now, now! Those are two serious and untrue allegations. You really must stop listening to Trump propaganda. With freedom of speech comes the responsibility to exercise it responsibly. I’m not even going to discuss them…)

              Yes! Pluto sounds good! I hope Pluto lives there! Well, I shall change into a party frock then, just in case…

            • Me? Oh…I’m the worst fighter ever.

              Yeah. Look how mean you made me be. But that’s okay. I’m very mean! No!!

              In a free market…bah! I shan’t debate about it. I’m a rotten debater. Even though I was in a debate class once. See how much good that did me? Ridiculous, I say. A waste of time. Why do a thing that can’t help you later? Many dadblameits.

              *laughing lots and lots and lots* That’s something. Trump didn’t come up with that one. It’s like a legend. You know, passed down from generation to generation. There’s so much proof for both… *sighs then dies* You know, they must elect me as prez.

            • Ah, you’re probably just saying that to lull me into a false sense of security prior to a sneak attack… *twitches nervously*

              Britain is one of the world’s greatest advocates for free markets and has been since way back when America was still learning to spell! Oh, sorry… it’s still working on that, isn’t it? http://www.conservapedia.com/Free_market *sticks out tongue* I think sticking one’s tongue out at crucial moments is an essential part of debating – did they teach you that in class?

  6. Oh my goodness. I heard the news. So momentous! I’m not sure what to think about it, so you must be reeling with it.
    This book sounds very intriguing. I’ve noticed a plethora of books set in the 20s lately (a number of YA books). I can see why Keira Knightley would snap up the rights. Sounds like the role you described is within her wheelhouse.

    • I can’t believe it, to be honest. Hopefully it won’t turn out to be quite as disastrous as it feels like at the moment, but the whole country is in a state of shock.

      A really entertaining one, this one. I like that period – there’s something so sleazily glamorous about the whole speakeasy thing. Keira Knightley would make a brilliant Odalie, I think – I hope the film gets made…

  7. This sounds pretty interesting (minus the too-long middle, of course!). As a writer, I can see how challenging it is to move a story from a grabby beginning to a stellar ending; however, other writers have faced the challenge head on — and successfully — so it is possible. I read the news early this morning my time. Should I offer congratulations, or should we wait a spell to see how things shake down before breaking into a happy dance?!!

    • It is definitely tricky and so many books sag in the middle. But I always though that was what editors were for – to tell authors when they were dragging something out too long. It seems to be happening more and more often too. However, the book is still a great debut – looking forwards to reading her next one.

      I’m devastated, to be honest – never thought it would actually happen. All I can hope is that it doesn’t turn out to be as disastrous as I fear. Sadly I’m just old enough to remember Britain going it alone before we joined the EU, and those were not good days. The EU has a lot of problems, but I’d rather have stayed in and fixed them…

    • I kinda liked that the ending was left a bit ambiguous – it kinda tied in with the rest of it! And I loved Ruth as a character (though maybe not so much as a person, eh? 😉 ) I think Kiera Knightley would make a fab Odalie – I hope the movie does get made!

      Thanks, you too! 🙂

    • Indeed – and it seems to be happening more and more at the moment. I do think this has the potential to be a great movie though – hope it happens! (Assuming we haven’t decided to build a wall to keep ‘foreign’ cultures out by then…)

  8. Have you heard that, in the wake of a successful Brexit, Texas may be renewing its efforts to secede from the U.S.? That ball of yarn your cat was just playing with? Well, it’s unraveling faster than a poorly made sweater.

    • No, really?! I despair – is this all because of the economic crash do yout think? Things seemed to be tootling along just fine for ages, going slowly in the right direction, till the last few years…

      • From what I’ve read, economics (many who feel their earning power has disintegrated over the past 20-30 years) and dissatisfaction with government gridlock. After the tragedy in Orlando last week, the Dems staged a sit-in on the Senate floor (unprecedented action), trying to get the Repubs to vote on a reasonable background check bill. Not even that could move things forward. The Repubs have vowed to block any action to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice (which resulted in this week’s failure for Obama’s immigration plan). Frustration on top of frustration on both sides.

        • I heard about the sit-in – I find the whole gun law thing in America incredible really, and was deeply sorry to hear that the immigration plan got blocked. Unfortunately for us, though, we don’t have gridlock in our system – hence our ability to cut our own throats in a single thoughtless day. I’ve always been an advocate of referenda, but I have to say after the last two I’ve changed my mind. Not just because I was on the losing side in both, but because both have left horribly divided societies with so much hatred floating around. I’ve swung totally the other way on Scottish Independence – I’ve seen how hideous some elements of the Nationalists are, with mass rallies and yelling down and intimidating any opposition, and I fear they won’t have my support next time around. And it looks like next time around is going to be soon. ‘Democrats’ only really accept democratic decisions when they go their own way, it appears, in Scotland. If I were the praying type, I’d pray that America does better than we did come November…

            • She is impressive, but frankly I wish she’d give us some time before she tries to railroad us into breaking up the UK. I can’t feel we need more disruption at the moment. Small country thing – I used to work beside her dad!

    • Definitely a really enjoyable read despite the saggy middle! I hope you enjoy it – I have her next one Three Martini Lunch on my summer books list, which I requested immediately on finsihing this one, so I must have liked it!

      I can’t believe the result – I’m much more devastated than I expected to be, to be honest, especially since the Scottish Nationalists are going full steam ahead for another independence referendum before we even get a chance to see how this will play out. Yep, I think a lot of people just meant to kick the government and are probably now asking themselves what they have done. Democracy… sometimes I wonder…

  9. I was so surprised by the results. I don’t know a lot about it, but I didn’t expect it to go the way it did. Hopefully, everything will turn out okay in the end… and that it doesn’t take too long to do so…

    Btw, the book sounds good, too!

    • I’m still devastated – can’t believe we’ve done this to ourselves and to Europe. But some of our more thoughtful leaders are beginning to talk about ways we can maybe minimise the effects and hopefully the rabid fanatics on all sides might shut up and let the competent people have a go soon… maybe…

  10. Lately I’ve been reading that many crime novels are overly long, and you pointed out here that that is common in the genre. Do you have any clues as to why? Usually, all the little side plots in a novel, which you also mentioned, drive me batty. I’m obsessive about knowing every character and who he/she is and what he/she does in order to know very precisely what the function of the character is at the end of the novel, but overly long books don’t often give a clear function for every character. *insane*

    Also, you’re in Scotland, yes? The Scots made me proud this weekend in their attacks on Donald Trump via Twitter. And one gent actually brought a balloon to a Trump event, charged it up, and held it over Trump’s head to see what his hair would do! *Salute*

    • I don’t know, but I have a couple of guesses. Either thick books sell better (or publishers think they do). Or perhaps it’s the rise of massive fantasy trilogies – people seem to love all the world-building and not mind the length, so maybe crime writers think they should do something similar. But I just don’t think it works for the crime genre, which pretty much should be – here’s the crime, here’s the investigation, here’s the solution. IMO, of course! I do want some characterisation but often they get totally bogged down in the life of the detective to the extent that it’s possible to forget what the crime actually was!

      Hahaha! We hate Trump! We hated him even before he started this run for President, because he bought up some of our lovely coastline and turned it into a golf course for the rich. Of course our government let him. Please don’t let him become President!! His hair admittedly is a unique work of art… 😉

  11. I’ve wanted to read this book for a very long time and your review has convinced me that after the summer – I really must find a copy. I do however appreciate the warning of slow bits but if you say the positives outweigh these – it must be worth a read. 😉

    • I’ve had it for ages! It’s well worth getting hold off – I think it’s the kind of thing you’ll enjoy. I have her next one too – Three Martini Lunch – which I’m hearing good things about, though it sounds quite different from this one. It’s one of my 20 books if I ever get back to reading… too much politics and tennis recently!

  12. This sounds interesting, but I wish publishers would stop paying by weight – or is it editors who can’t find a red pencil who are the problem? 150 pages is a novella!
    ( not doing politics -wibble, wibble, wibble…..)

    • I know – I often think of just skipping the 100 pages in the middle, but sadly you don’t know how important it is till you’ve read it.

      (Still in a state of total shock – don’t know whether to rant or sob. Both, I think…)

  13. I have not heard one peep about the movie since 2013/2014. If it is still made, it seems like it will be at least 2018 before it is released. I read the book in 2013 and will have forgotten what happened by then.

    • I won’t forget. 🙂

      I wonder if the movie will be as elusive as the book when it comes to the ending. I imagine so, but I would hope it would be wrapped up a little more neatly. 🙂

      I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the book, but as I mentioned in another comment, the ending was confusing.

      Elizabeth

      • Haha! I will! But that’s good – it means I won’t be so picky about any changes they make… 🙂

        You might enjoy the new one, then, because she does bring the ending together in it. I loved both, but I think overall I preferred the new one…

    • I know – I looked around while doing this review and couldn’t find anyhting recent about it. However, I’m sure the publicity blurb that came with her next book (which I must have thrown out unfortunately) said she was involved in working on the script or something, so hopefully it will happen sometime.

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s