Undoubtedly one of the most memorable reads on my 2018 list. But I decided to opt out on a review.
I will instead take time to answer the 12 questions Ms. Rindell has for the readers at the end of the book to somehow bare my own thoughts about The Other Typist. It’s a very good piece of work. But one might have the tendency to find himself questioning the events as they are subjectively presented by the narrative.
Anyhow, here we go.
1. Do you think Rose is a reliable or unreliable narrator? Why? If you did question her veracity, at what point in the novel did you begin to do so?
I see Rose as a reliable narrator. She’s very keen on details both objective and subjective, and makes sure the readers know the difference between the two. And yes, I did start questioning her. It started on that part when she introduced the ‘doctor’ she’s been talking too.
She seemed well to me. But someone who sees a doctor to talk about personality is indicative of some behavioral issues. Not necessarily disturbing issues but still issues.
2. Why is Rose so captivated by Odalie, someone she wholly disapproves of initially?
I think it’s primarily because of their stark differences. As they say, opposites tend to attract.
Odalie is Rose’s opposite. She is a character that challenges Rose’s ‘comfort’ and ‘familiar’ zone and shows her another side of the picture. This makes Rose’s initial disapproval understandable. Odalie, being an unfamiliar territory seems like a threat to the practices she grew up with.
Despite this, human curiosity wins. And Rose, being an observant and curious as she is just can’t resist the allure of knowing something more out of the other’s new and unique ways of doing things.
3. Through Odalie, Rose gains entry into a world she’s never seen before, one filled with opulence and rich, glamorous people. Clearly Rose is an outsider who doesn’t belong. Yet she seems to take it all rather quickly. Why do you think this is so? Why, despite all the new people she comes into contact with, is Odalie the only one she seems to be charmed by?
Because Rose’s a fast learner. At least that’s how I see her. She’s also a survivor. It’s her nature. So it’s only a matter of time before she masters the new ways of a new environment. Plus, her interest in Odalie tends to enhance her observation skills, absorbing how the former acts in various situations, all the while learning it herself.
As to why she’s charmed by Odalie, the same answer with no.2.
4. Some readers may think that Rose is a lesbian. Do you? Why or why not? Might her Victorian sensibility, when viewed by a contemporary reader, be misinterpreted and sexualized even if it might be innocent and pure?
Maybe, but I don’t think so. She doesn’t seem like the person who gets along easily with others. She’s not social, so to speak and her real friendship is primarily confined in a childhood experience with no other than a lady like herself. It’s only natural to see her longing for that experience once more.
But yes, since people seemed to see her as the aloof, reserved and anti-social typist or roommate, seeing her so close with someone can be interpreted as harboring some special, romantic affection to that person.
5. Rose is such a stickler for the rules, yet as the novel progresses, she starts breaking them frequently. In retrospect, do you think she ever follows the rules? Or does she follow only the ones she agrees with?
I’ll go with the latter. Rose may seem straight as an arrow, but she has the tendency to disobey. She is an observer – a thinker. And she knows more things than what she tells. She acts accordingly as necessary. But I think she’s not completely averse to bending rules. She’s smart enough to know when to do just that. And not getting caught.
6. Rose is actually quite a funny, astute observer. (“I crawled into [bed]… exhausted from the efforts of making conversation with a man who, if he were any duller, might be declared catatonic by those in the medical profession.”) Why, then, is she so humorless when it comes to people like Iris, Gib, and the Lieutenant Detective, especially?
I can’t say for sure, but she obviously has some preconceived notions about them. Most likely based on her personal observations. It just so happen that those notions were not onto their favor.
7. Rose states in the beginning of the book: “I am there to transcribe what will eventually come to be known as the truth.” The novel plays with the notion that the written word is superior to the spoken – Rose’s transcripts and her diary that the reader is reading versus the narration she provides throughout the book. Do you think the written word carries more weight than oral history? Why or why not?
It’s more like a combination of both. I mean, I won’t discredit one over the other. Rose’s diary brings out more honesty in her experience. She supports it with her narration, although the latter also has some added prejudices and opinions here and there.
I guess at some point she felt the need to show her written works because she also feels like we will understand her better if we read the actual recount of her experiences – no matter how irrelevant they may seem. And in fact, as I read through her diary, there are aspects of her experiences – some she might not be conscious of – that obviously contributed to the change that we see on her attitude. Yet, her narration seems to always lean on her being aware of it all and just giving herself the chance to learn.
8. Consider the many possible storylines for Odalie’s history. Did she really kill her ex-fiance? Was Gib really the driver of the train? Was she indeed a debutante from a wealthy family in Newport? Did she at a young age leave her mother to live with Czako, the Hungarian, in Europe? Which of these stories is the most plausible? Do you believe any of them is true?
It’s hard to trust Odalie. That, I am sure of. I’m not saying she’s a liar. But she’s not exactly the honest person you’ll expect to hear real-life stories. She fabricates stories like a pro and gets away with it without anyone questioning her. Gib also has his own agenda so I can’t say I trust him too.
But of all the stories about her, I’d say the one about her being a debutante from a wealthy Newport family is highly probable. And yes, I think she’s capable of killing her ex-fiancee.
9. What do you make of Roses’s appearance? Throughout the novel she takes pains to point out that she is plain-looking. Yet the Lieutenant Detective obviously finds her attractive, and at the end of the book she is a doppelganger for Odalie, who is portrayed a knockout. What do you think Rose really looks like? Should her appearance even matter?
To be honest, I’ve always seen her as beautiful. Not the type who wears lipsticks and makeup but more like the natural type.
She describes herself as plain, but that’s probably because of her traditional upbringing. Plus, she never saw the importance of comparing herself to other women. She’s also not stylish. She can blend well with the crowd, but not the type that can completely go unnoticed.
As to the ‘doppelganger’ reference on the last part of the book, I think it has nothing to do with her looks. She was conned. By Odalie. And as I’ve mentioned, Rose is a natural beauty. It wouldn’t take much effort in coaxing police to believe how Rose is actually the rich kid and not the other way around. The evidence just needs to be planted. And let’s face it. Odalie is a master manipulator who can do just that.
10. When Rose is in the hospital at the end of the book, the doctors call her “Ginevra.” That is the name Teddy used for Odalie. Who do you think is the real Ginevra? Are Odalie and Rose the same person?
No. Never (at least at the time I finished reading the book) did it occur to me that they are the same person. And I am more than convinced that Odalie is Ginevra. Teddy knows it so he needs to be eliminated. Odalie did so. Then, capitalizing on Rose’s devotion to her, she strategically placed all the evidence in a way that would incriminate Rose in the most convincing, foolproof possible.
11. What do you make of the kiss at the end of the novel? Is Rose doing it just to get the Lieutenant Detective’s knife, or is there some true feeling behind it? Were you surprised that she admits she’s never kissed a man before?
It was partly strategic, I should say. But I think Rose’s curiosity combined with the shock and psychological trauma of what Odalie did to her made her do it. She was already aware of that point that the Lieutenant somehow harbors an affection towards her.
And no, I wasn’t surprised that it was her first kiss.
12. What do you believe really happened at the end of the book? Did Rose kill Teddy? Or did Odalie?
Odalie. I think all of those things that Odalie did with Rose – the parties, vacation, fine dining, etc. were part of her grand plan. She must’ve at some point realized the need for an escape plan just in case things go awry – think Teddy. And given how smooth everything went, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not the first time she conned other people.
She needed someone who can be her. And Rose was the perfect fit.
But really. Thinking back about the story, there could be other angles we can explore to see what really happened. Most of them are big chunks of ‘what ifs’ but not entirely impossible. Say,
- What if everything was a lie and Odalie was just really a fragment of Rose’s (the real Ginevra) imagination?
- What if Odalie was the one saying the truth and Rose just made it the other way around? In this case, she conned us all?
- What if Rose was really sick, to begin with (her mental issues) and decided to create a story that will make her appear as the victim?
These and possibly more.
But I guess it’s best we leave those ‘what if’s’ open for discussions.
So what do you think about the story?