The Typist by Michael Knight

Summary ~ The Typist ~

Written with the stunning economy of language for which Michael Knight’s work has always been praised, The Typist is a rich and powerful work of historical fiction that expertly chronicles both the politics of the Pacific theater of World War II, and the personal relationships borne from the tragedies of warfare. When Francis Vancleave (“Van”) joins the army in 1944, he expects his term of service to pass uneventfully. His singular talent—typing ninety-five words a minute—keeps 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.

But little does Van know that the first year of the occupation will prove far more volatile for him than for the U.S. Army. When he’s bunked with a troubled combat veteran cum-black marketer and recruited to babysit MacArthur’s eight-year-old son, Van is suddenly tangled in the complex—and risky—personal lives of his compatriots. As he brushes shoulders with panpan girls and Communists on the streets of Tokyo, Van struggles to uphold his convictions in the face of unexpected conflict—especially the startling news from his war bride, a revelation that threatens Van with a kind of war wound he never anticipated.

If you are a regular visitor to Planet Books then you know that I enjoy reading historical fiction set during WWII.  I don’t know why this is but I can’t seem to turn away from stories set during this tumultuous time in our world history.  I have not read very many books set in Japan during this period though.  Most take place in Nazi occupied Europe.  The Typist by Michael Knight is another book that takes the reader back to the mid 1940’s but this time it is in American occupied Tokyo, Japan after the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan by atom bombs.  General Douglas MacArthur is the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the Far East and his headquarters are in “Little America”, a few square miles in Tokyo that were spared from American bombing and left in tact.  Here we meet Francis “Van” Vancleave, a typist in the OPS department at HQ.  Because of his swift typing speed of ninety-five words a minute he is assigned to this billet.  His mother had taught him to type when he was a kid and that skill brings Van into company with General “Bunny” MacArthur himself.  

 

Van lives a quiet life in the barracks with his roommate Clifford, a member of Honor Guard Company.  Clifford brings excitement to Van’s life and through that excitement a story set during a time of rebuilding in Japan develops.  In addition to the dramas that Clifford brings, an act of kindness on Van’s part finds him in the company of The General and his family on an intimate level.  These relationships made for complex plots that I enjoyed.    Knight’s writing took to the streets of 1944 Tokyo and the culture that was redeveloping itself to fit into a modern and westernized world.  Van is a likable guy and the problems he faced are tough and probable.  I enjoyed learning about some of the history of the rebuilding of Japan and the policies and ideas that General MacArthur implemented.  Though liberties were taken by Knight I still found myself researching some facts brought to my attention throughout the story.  

All in all The Typist was an enjoyable and quick read.  The vibe of war torn Japan is heavy and desperate but also laced with hope.  The characters that Knight creates weave themselves well into the history of the time and real-life characters like General MacArthur.   My only problem was after Van is discharged from the Army and finds himself back home, creating a new life for himself the story felt like it just fell off a cliff.  It was such an abrubt ending in my opinion that I don’t have a sense of closure with the book like I find in every other book I’ve read.  Though it has left me frustrated I still enjoyed the book. 

{Rating ~ 3.5 out of 5}

 I would like to thank Kristen @ Grove Atlantic for sending me this book for me to read and review!

One thought on “The Typist by Michael Knight

  1. Thanks for the post. I like to read WWII stories too. Have you seen the mini series Island at War? It’s about the channel island, Jerseyoccupied during the war.
    Ann

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