Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Amy Einhorn Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Before I turned the first page, I knew nothing about Suzanne Rindell's debut novel, The Other Typist, except that it took place in the 1920s and it was an Amy Einhorn book. Because I started the book with no preconceived notions whatsoever, I was totally unprepared to be so completely knocked over the head by its impact.
First, the 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.Deep breath. Gather thoughts. How to talk about The Other Typist without spoiling things for you. Let me address about the structure of the plot and the time period and hope my infatuation with this book comes shining through.
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.
Rindell sets up the plot of The Other Typist very carefully, pulling us in by subtle increments until we're hooked before we realize it. Soon after we're introduced to Rose and then to Odalie, we are told that something happened that involved one or the other or both of them. We don't know the particulars, but we begin to form some opinions. Then, as we read, the story shifts beneath us, like sand, and we begin to second-guess Rose, Odalie, and even our own thoughts.
We have questions, and we can't stop reading until we find the answers. We recognize turning points in the plot and Rose specifically spells out others, but we can't quite grasp the significance of these events. We need to learn more. And so it is that we--like Rose--are dragged deeper and deeper into the world of Odalie. We are never completely comfortable there, but we can't help but want to stick around.
Have I confused you? Have I caught your attention? I hesitate to tell you more than what you get from the publisher's summary because I think this is a book that is best experienced blind. I'm even reluctant to give it a genre label; tags such as psychological thriller, historical fiction, and character study simplify The Other Typist and don't covey the almost creepy emotional depth and compelling story arcs that keep the reader so fully invested in Rose and Odalie's relationship.
To say that The Other Typist is historical fiction is only part right. Yes, it takes place over the course of almost a year, starting in 1924. And, yes, flappers, speakeasies, bobbed hair, and rum runners all solidly place the novel in its time period. But Rindell didn't write what I would call traditional historical fiction. The time and place are utterly important and necessary for the story to work, yet the real focus is on the dynamics between Odalie and Rose and how they react to the somethings that happened.
Suzanne Rindell's The Other Typist is a hard-hitting novel that you'll mull over for days and weeks. You'll leaf back through the book, searching for the hints and clues you missed, dissecting conversations, and reassessing your thoughts about the characters. Oh and that epilogue . . . yeah, that's a section that requires a reread or three. Book club members should start planning their next meeting right now. The Other Typist will keep you talking long after the meeting should have ended.
Amy Einhorn Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010, or click the Amy Einhorn tab below my banner photo. To join the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge, click the link.
Buy The Other Typist at an Indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Putnam / Amy Einhorn Books, May 7, 2013
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).