Ok, I took my grand old time posting the second portion of my previous rant. Please ‘scuse me. For some fabulous reason, Blogspot has decided to muck up my formatting as well...please forgive!
1356 by Bernard Cornwall- If I haven’t mentioned this already, one of my favorite genres is that of historical fiction. I get to immerse myself in a totally foreign time frame, and ‘experience’ what life may have been like in different eras. Inevitably, I come out of such novels with a renewed sense of gratitude that I live in this particular generation! Although obviously taken with a grain of salt, I’m actually quasi picky about what historical fiction I read and I prefer to stick with ‘mostly accurate’ HF when I can find it. (as an aside, I stumbled on to this link a while back, and it gave me some neat starting points.) But I digress!! (have you noticed? I do that sometimes!)
Ok, back on topic: Bernard Cornwall is apparently an incredibly prolific writer who stays often within the realm of HF. 1356 was my first foray into his work, and I have to say, I loved it. Based around the Battle of Poitiers that took place between the French/Scots on one side, and the English on the other, Cornwall paints an incredibly vivid picture of what battle was like in (yup, you guessed it!) 1356. Vivid, but not unforgivably and gratuitously violent. Cornwall complements his work by including historical notes and maps- and I was so drawn into the intertwining stories and battles that I CONSULTED THE MAPS! (Have I mentioned that I NEVER consult maps in novels? The first time I ever grasped the layout of Middle Earth was earlier this year, when I bought a poster map for my son to consult as we began to read LOTR together.) But, maps or no maps, this story was a winner. Characters were engaging, human, and believable, the story was well crafted, and I learned about history in spite of myself- I felt so proud. Coincidently, my older brother is a HUGE history buff, and loves anything and everything having to do with battles, (descriptions of battles, descriptions of weapons used in battles, descriptions of armor worn in battles…you get the picture) and so when I finished reading this, the first person I called was my brother. ‘Course, since I’m his little sister, he won’t listen to me for another 2 years. I hope YOU take advantage sooner J Let me know if you do!
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell- Ok, so this book has been viewed, reviewed, and lauded up and down 5th Avenue twenty times already. I know I’m merely adding my voice as one among a clamor, but here goes. We get introduced to the novel’s narrator, Rose, in the midst of prohibition era New York. Rose is a bit of a mystery unto herself, for all that she is the window through which we glimpse the tale. Rose is a typist for a police precinct; she is charged with recording and transcribing the confessions and statements of the felons brought in to the station for various and sundry crimes. We do get a very tangible feel for what the occupational hazards of such a job may have been and a fascinating perspective on the profound trust necessary to complete such a task. Men (and presumably some women) were tried and convicted on the basis of what another human person wrote. Scary, no?
At any rate, Rose has carved out a life for herself, climbing her way up from an anonymous beginning in a convent school, to reaching a respected position in civil service. Rose, is, if nothing else, very respectable. Then we meet Odalie, who comes to join the typing pool, and promptly turns Rose’s world upside down.
I still hold that my favorite flapper/20’s/prohibition novel that I’ve encountered is Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. The Other Typist is not a novel in the same vein at all, exuding a much more of manipulative, distrusting sense throughout. In fact, the better I got to know Rose as the narrator, the less inclined I was to believe her. That being said, the setting, the backdrop of the story as it were, is incredibly exquisite. The author created an incredibly tangible environment that may have you sneaking into dilapidated wig shops at odd hours of the day.
And then it ended, and I was confused. Have at it, then come back and tell me what it was all about.