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The Imperfectionistsby Tom Rachman
It really is as good as you've heard it is, and if you haven't heard someone raving about it, let me be that person. A member of that burgeoning category of book that declines to be easily identifiable as either a novel or book of short stories, The Imperfectionists blurs the two forms into something wonderful. Centered around the rise and fall of an English-language daily paper based out of Rome and started on a whim by a wealthy businessman, each chapter of The Imperfectionists focuses on a different character associated with the paper. It's a hard trick to pull off, but the revolving door of protagonists introduces a cast that is fully realized and wholly human, despite the slim page-count devoted to each one. That they drift in and out of one another's stories only serves to add depth to our perception of them. Interspersed with the often hilarious, sometimes gut-wrenching glimpses into the crew's personal lives is the story of how the paper came to be — a story about an inscrutable millionaire of whom Tom Rachman gives us only a hauntingly peripheral view. With its sucker-punch of an ending and it's fizzy blend of humor, despair, love, and hate, The Imperfectionists reads like riding a Vespa top speed through Rome: glimpses of a bigger picture that add up to something beautiful.
Nobody's perfect, but Tom Rachman comes pretty damn close with his debut
novel, The Imperfectionists. Through the lives of the eleven main
characters (each with their own chapter), Rachman chronicles the rise and
fall of a Rome-based international newspaper, which bears a striking
resemblance to his former employer, the International Herald Tribune.
Gossipy and fun, yet poignant and timely, The Imperfectionists marks the arrival of a wonderful new literary talent.
Synopses & Reviews
Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome, Tom Rachman's wry, vibrant debut follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English language newspaper as they struggle to keep it — and themselves — afloat.
Fifty years and many changes have ensued since the paper was founded by an enigmatic millionaire, and now, amid the stained carpeting and dingy office furniture, the staff's personal dramas seem far more important than the daily headlines. Kathleen, the imperious editor in chief, is smarting from a betrayal in her open marriage; Arthur, the lazy obituary writer, is transformed by a personal tragedy; Abby, the embattled financial officer, discovers that her job cuts and her love life are intertwined in a most unexpected way. Out in the field, a veteran Paris freelancer goes to desperate lengths for his next byline, while the new Cairo stringer is mercilessly manipulated by an outrageous war correspondent with an outsize ego. And in the shadows is the isolated young publisher who pays more attention to his prized basset hound, Schopenhauer, than to the fate of his family's quirky newspaper.
As the era of print news gives way to the Internet age and this imperfect crew stumbles toward an uncertain future, the paper's rich history is revealed, including the surprising truth about its founder's intentions.
Spirited, moving, and highly original, The Imperfectionists will establish Tom Rachman as one of our most perceptive, assured literary talents.
"In his zinger of a debut, Rachman deftly applies his experience as foreign correspondent and editor to chart the goings-on at a scrappy English-language newspaper in Rome. Chapters read like exquisite short stories, turning out the intersecting lives of the men and women who produce the paper — and one woman who reads it religiously, if belatedly. In the opening chapter, aging, dissolute Paris correspondent Lloyd Burko pressures his estranged son to leak information from the French Foreign Ministry, and in the process unearths startling family fare that won't sell a single edition. Obit writer Arthur Gopal, whose 'overarching goal at the paper is indolence,' encounters personal tragedy and, with it, unexpected career ambition. Late in the book, as the paper buckles, recently laid-off copyeditor Dave Belling seduces the CFO who fired him. Throughout, the founding publisher's progeny stagger under a heritage they don't understand. As the ragtag staff faces down the implications of the paper's tilt into oblivion, there are more than enough sublime moments, unexpected turns and sheer inky wretchedness to warrant putting this on the shelf next to other great newspaper novels." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The first novel by Tom Rachman...is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off....[H]ilarious and heart-wrenching." Christopher Buckley, New York Times Book Review
"This acute debut portrays the world of neurotic journalists....Rachman...paints the characters' small dramas and private disappointments with humanity and humor." New Yorker
"Charming....The print newspaper may be an endangered species, but the newsroom — with its deadlines, quirky characters and investigative crusades — still makes for a good story." New York Newsday
"Laced with humor, irony and compassion....[S]ome of the chapters are absolute gems." Dallas Morning News
"The Imperfectionists will make you laugh and cry. It's the rare novel that can shift emotional tone effortlessly....Magnificent." Seattle Post Intelligencer
"Rachman is an admirable stylist. Each chapter is so finely wrought that it could stand alone as a memorable short story. Slowly, the separate strands become entwined and the line characters have drawn between their work and home lives is erased....[F]unny, poignant, occasionally breathtaking." Financial Times
"A very strong debut. Funny, humane and artful." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] polished, sophisticated debut." Library Journal
About the Author
Tom Rachman was born in London and raised in Vancouver. A graduate of the University of Toronto and the Columbia School of Journalism, he has been a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, stationed in Rome. From 2006 to 2008, he worked as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He lives in Rome.
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