Rife with the crisp dialogue, complex characters, and stunning economy of language for which Michael Knight’s previous work has been praised, The Typist chronicles the early, halting rehabilitation of the grisly Pacific theater of the Second World Warspecifically occupied Japan, where Western bureaucrats flooded into Tokyo, taking charge of their former enemies.
When Francis Vancleave (“Van”) joins the army in 1944, he has every reason to expect his term of service will pass uneventfully. After all, the war is winding down and Van’s one singular talenttyping ninety-five words a minutekeeps him off the battlefield and in General MacArthur’s busy Tokyo headquarters, where his days are filled with paperwork in triplicate and letters of dictation.
Little does Van know that the first year of the occupation will prove far more volatile for him than for the U.S. Army. Bunked with a troubled combat veteran cum-black marketer and recruited to babysit General MacArthur’s eight-year-old son, Van is suddenly tangled in the complexand riskypersonal lives of his compatriots. As he brushes shoulders with panpan girls and Communists on the bustling streets of Tokyo, Van struggles to uphold his convictions in the face of unexpected conflictespecially the startling news that reaches his barracks from his young war bride, a revelation that threatens Van with a kind of war wound he could never have anticipated.
Though grounded in the history of Japan’s reconstruction era in the wake of World War II, The Typist is unmistakably contemporary in its portrayal of military occupations and of individual experience in an immensely complicated time. At once spare and captivating, it is a book about unlikely kinships, good intentions gone awry, and the many forks in the road to manhood.