Monday, June 10, 2013

The Other Typist

The Other Typist
Suzanne Rindell

Amid the hype around Baz Luhrmann’s extravagant cinematic interpretation of the classic novel The Great Gatsby comes Suzanne Rindell’s debut novel, The Other Typist. In contrast to the exaggerated indulgences of Fitzgerald’s glamorous representations of 1920s America, Rindell focuses instead on the darker elements of life during the Prohibition era.

Her protagonist, Rose, is an uptight, morally austere woman working as a stenographer in a seedy New York City police department precinct. When Odalie, a seductive and alluring young beauty with bobbed hair and an illicit lifestyle, joins the typing pool, she throws Rose into a dizzying maelstrom of speakeasies and underground culture. Told through Rose’s fluid yet unreliable narrative perspective, The Other Typist contrasts the vastly different yet remarkably linked worlds of 1920s crime and punishment.

Rindell creates a world in which the reader recognizes the underlying sexism within the police department as a comment on gender inequality in the early twentieth century and sees the burgeoning feminism bubbling up in the speakeasies like bathtub gin as an indication of impending cultural revolution. However, the detailed depiction of one of America’s most interesting and controversial periods pales in comparison to a plot that moves the reader through a labyrinth of possibilities as Rose careens out of control toward a thrilling and unexpected conclusion.

This book’s got it all, folks: controversy and corruption, intrigue and mystery, sensuality and obsession, cunningly conveyed in lyrical prose.

- Lee Puddephatt

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