The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

I needed another book set in the 1920s for Jazz Age January hosted by Books Speak Volumes, so I went with Katie’s (Words for Worms) suggestion of The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Instead of being your typical flapper age, gin soaked romp, The Other Typist is a psychological thriller soaked in champagne.

So what am I really saying? First, I loved The Other Typist. Rindell is a very good writer. She presents us with a rather unreliable narrator in Rose, a plain looking typist at a police station in Manhattan. Unreliable narrators are a bit of a soft spot with me, so I was thrilled. As the story progresses, Rose drops hints that she is now in a psyche hospital for unknown, but rather dark reasons. These reason have to do with Odalie, a true flapper through and through, who comes to work as the other typist at the precinct. Slowly the lives of Rose and Odalie become so intertwined that they cannot be separated.

I don’t want to give too much away about The Other Typist. I will say that it was full of surprises. It was kind of a Jazz Age combination of The Talented Mr. Ripley and the movie Single White Female. The end threw me for a complete loop and like Katie, I’m not completely sure if I understand what happened in the end.

Who would like this book? I would not put this book in the category of literary – it was definitely a psychological thriller. It was fairly fast paced, but was atmospheric enough to give a good sense of 1920s New York. There were speakeasies and bathtub gin, a little violence and on the fringes sat gangsters. For me the best part was Rose who saw the world around her from a unique perspective.

Shorecliff by Ursula DeYoung

Shorecliff by Ursula DeYoung was the first book i read for Jazz Age January, generously hosted by Leah over at Books Speak Volumes. The story is about a large family who all come together at the summer home on the shores of Maine in the early 1920’s. Lurking in the background is the knowledge that something scandalous is going to happen and the narrator feel responsible for it.

I am not a huge fan of first person narrative. I think it is difficult to pull off well. In the case of Shorecliff, the narrator comes off as being rather puritanical, more so than a 13 year old should be. On numerous occasions he seems to be be overly shocked by minor indiscretions, making the reader think at every turn, Oh is this the scandal that has been alluded to for the last 100 pages?

My other complaint about the novel is that it didn’t have a very pronounced Jazz Age feel. That normally wouldn’t bother me so much, but I was reading it to kick off Jazz Age January so I wanted something a little bit more evocative of the age. Perhaps I should have gone with The Great Gatsby.

Who would like this book? Shorecliff is a good read if you like family dramas. I love novels about families getting together at summer homes. You just know that some secret is going to emerge and ruin everything. I was hoping Shorecliff would be a little bit more like Tigers in Red Weather, but that comparison is unfair. Shorecliff is tamer than Tigers and more understated.