BOOK: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (2010)

This witty, engaging novel is a collection of vignettes about a group of journalists living in Rome and working for an English-language international newspaper.  From the copy desk staff to the reporters to the editors to an avid reader, the novel takes us deep down into the complex world of newspapers, a world Rachman, himself a former reporter, knows like the back of his notepad — and man, does it ever show.

My husband is a newspaper reporter himself, so I can attest to the accuracy and ubiquity of a lot of the newspapery elements of the story — the competition, the financial pressures, the attitudes, and the waxing/waning dedication and apathy.  Not to mention the snarky relationships between copy editors and reporters.  All perfectly, perfectly captured here.

But these elements, while obviously important to the framework of the story, aren’t really what make up the true meat of the novel.  Instead, the stories are deeply emotional profiles of the various players as individuals, with each vignette opening with their name and job title, along with a subtly prophetic headline that describes the current character as well as it does the current event.  Each story is a snapshot of a life, weaving in and out of the other lives in the book, and showing us each person’s weaknesses, wants, motivations, idiosyncrasies, hilarious foibles, and aching tragedies.

To say anything more about this book would, I think, strip some of the magic out of your reading experience — part of the pleasure lies in the discovery of the nature of each character, hunting for clues about the time line (oh, still using typewriters in this one; aha, dude has a Blackberry in this one), and figuring out the intricate ways in which the stories connect with each other.

Sharply written and both hilarious and sad — sometimes simultaneously — the moment I was done with this book, I immediately flipped back through to reread some of my favorite passages a few more times apiece.  They were that beguiling.  That moving.  That clever.  Rachman clearly loved being a newspaperman; here’s hoping he loves writing his second book as much as he obviously loved writing this one.

Pure perfection — I could not recommend this book more highly (and damn, that’s two brilliant books in a row for me — I’m on a roll!).

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2 Responses to “BOOK: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (2010)”

  1. Wendy Says:

    Can you please buck the trend with some bad books so that my to-read list can remain manageable?

  2. megwood Says:

    I feel certain I can do this for you.

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