This week I chose The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Set in the glamorous world of 1920’s New York, this is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while. Rose is a rather drab and prudish orphan, working as a typist in a Manhattan Police precinct. She prides herself on her accuracy and ability not to be ruffled by the bloodthirsty accounts she transcribes every day. She has a strong moral compass and thoroughly disapproves of all the drunkards she encounters (prohibition had just come into effect and subsequently the precinct has become a revolving door for drink related offences). One day her world is turned upside down, when another typist, Odalie is hired. Odalie is glamorous and sexually confident – everything Rose is not. Despite the odds, the two become friends and move in together, but their friendship becomes all consuming, with Rose both fascinated and obsessed by Odalie, whilst also disapproving of her. Odalie is a party girl and introduces Rose to the dark and dangerous world of Manhattan speakeasies, leading her on a wild adventure far from her prim existence prior to their friendship. But just who is Odalie exactly? She has a different story on a different day and seems to be able to acquire drinks and new clothes without ever paying for anything… As Rose becomes more embroiled in her obsession with Odalie, we learn that nothing is really as it seems.
I enjoyed this book a lot, it’s hard not to get seduced by the exciting and glamorous world of 20’s New York and the more we learn about the mysterious Odalie, the more absorbing the story becomes. One criticism is that we are given a lot of signposting throughout the story to what might happen at the end, as Rose reveals that something has happened to lead to her downfall. We learn quite early on that Rose is writing her account from an asylum, under the supervision of a doctor, who notes her ‘acute cruel streak’, and Rose ultimately gives too many hints about what is to come. There is a rather big twist at the end, but all this signposting gives too much away, denying the reader of that ‘oh my god’ moment. I guess in all thrillers there needs to be a balance of what is revealed and what is held back – for me, too much was revealed early on, destroying some of that delicious tension. I guess part of that comes from the first person narrative (yet another unreliable narrator) and I could imagine the tension and the ‘reveal’ playing out much better in a film (apparently they are making a film starring Keira Knightley, how apt). Nevertheless, this was a fun and absorbing read – I am a bit of a sucker for anything 1920’s to be honest. Not perfect, but a good read.
I couldn’t cook something this week that didn’t somehow incorporate the boozy, dark glamour of the 1920’s. For me, the 20’s = cocktails and tempted though I was to experiment with a load of cocktail making, I decided to cook something cocktail inspired to protect my liver! Gin features quite heavily in the book, so I decided to make some kind of gin flavoured cake. With the help of google, I found a recipe for Gin & Tonic cupcakes… gin & tonic in a cupcake… what could be better?! Here’s the recipe I used, but I adapted it slightly as below: http://bakeitinstinct.com/2013/08/21/gin-and-tonic-cupcakes/
Gin & Tonic Cupcakes
Makes 9 cupcakes
For the cakes:
- 90g unsalted butter softened
- 90g golden caster sugar
- 90g self raising flour
- 1 medium egg
- 2 tbsp tonic water
- 1tbsp gin
For the icing:
- 100g unsalted butter softened
- 50g icing sugar
- Juice and zest of one lime
- 1tbsp gin
- Pre-heat your oven to 170c and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 9 cases
- Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together until light and creamy
- Add the egg and whisk well until fully combined
- Sift in the flour and fold in being careful not to over stir it
- Stir in the tonic water
- Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases but don’t fill more than 2/3
- Bake for 15-20mins until they are golden and spring and a skewer comes out clean
- Remove from tins and place on cooling rack. While they are still hot pierce each one with a skewer half a dozen times and brush with gin
- For the icing, soften the butter with your whisk, add in the icing sugar and whisk fully batch at a time
- Squeeze in the juice of lime into the icing and add the gin. Whip again until soft and light and fluffy
- Pipe on to the cakes and add some lime zest to decorate.
Just a note on the icing – I know from experience that all recipes recommend you use way too much icing sugar, so I reduced the amount I used by a lot, so you could use more if needed. I also always end up with too much icing, so I made half the recommended amount. These cupcakes were tasty, but very limey, meaning the taste of G&T didn’t really come through. If I were to make again, I add more gin as you can’t go wrong with that! The lime icing was delicious though, don’t get me wrong! Because the icing has booze in it, I would recommend refrigerating it as mine did go a little bit runny.
Here’s a pic:
Not too shabby!