Tag Archives: before i go to sleep

“The Other Typist” – Flappers gone wild

In her job as stenographer for the police department, The Other Typist‘s Rose Baker is forced to hear a number of graphic and sometimes gruesome confessions not suitable for a woman’s ears. Rose is a prim and proper young woman living in 1924 New York in an era of prohibition and waning morals. When Odalie joins the steno pool, Rose distains her at first, but then she becomes fascinated by her. It’s not long before Rose becomes Odalie’s friend and roommate and Odalie becomes her obsession. When Rose enters Odalie’s world, she is thrown into a world of lies, mistaken identity and murder.  It’s not long before Rose’s world begins to unravel. She fakes a police report, attends speakeasies, runs errands for bootleggers, and fights her feelings for the Lieutenant Detective and for Odalie.

I enjoyed the inherent suspense of Suzanne Rindell’s first publication, the likes of which I have not seen since S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. In the beginning, the mystery revolves around Odalie. I wanted to know who she was, why someone of her stature and grace wanted to work in a dirty police station. When we are taken to her upscale apartment and learn she may have a sugar daddy, I wondered why, if she had someone to pay her bills, she would need to work at all, let alone with smelly drunks and underhanded murderers. After Rose attends her first club and finds out Odalie is both bootlegger and speakeasy organizer, the mystery shifts and the reader wonders how far buttoned-up Rose will go to be near the object of her obsession. Rose soon confides she is telling her story from a hospital and seeing a psychiatrist, adding another level of intrigue. Then Teddy appears to question Odalie’s identity, claiming she is not Odalie, but Ginevra instead, and that she has something to do with his cousin’s death. Later, when Teddy shows up at the police department, the page-turning reaches manic proportion. I think I missed most of Revolution in my haste to finish the novel. After all, Kobo told me I only had 1 hour left of reading to go. Having to re-watch parts of Revolution to fill in the blanks was a small price to pay for the punch line of this amazing book.

The Other Typist is an excellent example of the unreliable narrator. In most of what we read, we grow an affinity with the narrating character. Over the course of the novel, we learn to trust the narrator, identify with her, empathize with her, maybe even imagine ourselves in her position, but this is not always the case. By the end of The Other Typist, the reader is left questioning unsuspecting, mousey Rose’s culpability in the debacle. Did Odalie drug her fiancé and leave him to die in his car on the train tracks or was it Rose? Did Rose grow up in an orphanage or was it Odalie? Was Rose the one making changes to the confessions all along or was it Odalie? Did Odalie kill Teddy or was it Rose? What about Gib? Does Odalie really disappear to begin life anew at the end or does Rose kill her too? Is Ginevra Odalie’s alter ego, or is it Rose’s? Normally I like a story to tie all loose ends into a tidy bow at the end, but somehow, having these questions burn on in my psyche long after the novel is done is more satisfying.

As is the case with Single White Female and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the suspense of The Other Typist is in the build toward the climax, wanting to see how far the characters will go, waiting for the last thread to unravel.

Have you read The Other Typist? Who do you believe is Ginevra in disguise?

This is not 50 FIRST DATES!

This is not 50 FIRST DATES!

Christine spends the first hours of each day reading in her journal and the rest of it recording what happens to her as it happens so she will remember it tomorrow. The victim of a hit and run almost twenty years ago, Christine cannot remember anything from one day to the next. She writes at her doctor’s suggestion, keeping both the journal and her doctor a secret from her husband, Ben. Over time, she learns she has had a book published, lost most of her possessions in a fire she inadvertently set, and lost her nineteen-year-old son in Afghanistan…or has she?

Told mostly through Christine Lucas’ journal entries, Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson is a compelling page-turner. As an amnesiac, Christine awakes every morning unsure of herself. She “remembers” who she and her husband are by the labelled pictures posted around the bathroom mirror. Every morning, after she adjusts to the years she’s lost and her husband goes to work, she takes a call on her cell phone from Dr. Nash, who reminds her of where she’s hidden her journal. She reads it, gets caught up with her life, and then moves forward, frantically recording everything so she can pick up where she left off tomorrow. At times peaceful, at times panicked, Christine’s journal kept me on the edge of my seat, unable to put it down.

In Before I Go To Sleep, everyone, from the main character on down, has secrets to keep. It is these secrets that kept me reading. As we read each new entry in Christine’s journal along with her, both the protagonist and the reader realize things don’t add up. Is Christine a reliable narrator? Is the journal a fabrication, the next fiction she imagines? Is Ben as loving as he seems? What, if anything, is he hiding? Was Christine having an affair or was Ben? Who is Claire and why did she abandon Christine all those years ago? Is Dr. Nash to be trusted? These are questions the reader struggles with as the novel progresses; they are the questions Christine struggles with every moment of every day. While Christine begins each new day with a blank slate, reading the same entries in the same journal, Watson makes a concerted effort to spare the reader from that monotony, often glossing over Christine’s reaction to her age, the accident, the temporary separation from her husband after the accident, and the death of her son, but the parts that are repetitive are forgiven because the rest of the story is so compelling. You will not expect what happens once Christine finally pieces together the puzzle that is her life.

The hardcover version of this novel is 359 pages long; I zoomed through it (in eBook format, mind) in three days. I almost didn’t read it at all. Having been burned too many times buying eBooks sight unseen, it was a huge turnoff that Kobo didn’t offer a preview beyond the table of contents. Luckily, Kindle did, and before the end of it I was hooked. I was also wary because the premise sounded a lot like 50 First Dates. While Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore played this concept for its comedic worth, Watson’s interpretation is an absolute thriller, one that is worthy of being placed in the genre. I only wish I could find more books as powerful and as wonderfully written as Before I Go To Sleep.

 Graphic from http://www.harpercollins.com/harperimages/isbn/large/8/9781443404068.jpg

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!