Tom Rachman's novel The Imperfectionists is a wise, funny and moving novel about the people who write and read an international newspaper based in Rome.
We meet the hapless obituary reporter who will do anything to avoid work, the lonely executive who falls for the man she just fired, and the eccentric publisher who parys more attention to his basset hound than to his struggling paper.
Rachman reveals how the private comedies and tradgedies of these characters intertwine at work and at home. In the era of technology and terror, their true front-page stories are the blunders and triumphs of their own lives.
The characters and locations in this novel are instantly so vivid and real the story plays into your mind like a movie - shot mostly in close up. The prose in present tense adds to the feeling of being an invisible observer just a few feet away from the main character in the current 'scene'.
Each chapter is like a short story, swiftly revealing a different and incredibly 'real' person; tragic; flawed; compelling (with the exception of Snyder who is only objectionable). There's not really anyone to especially like (except maybe Pickles), but they all have redeeming features. You wonder briefly if you should close the book, but you can't put it down. Gradually, you piece together the relationships connecting these individuals through the hub of a failing newspaper. The entire cast and their quest are both hopeful and hopeless. It shouldn't be funny at all, yet there is a sense of underlying comedy. As the drama unfolds you find yourself variously sighing "Oh that is just sad...", or marvelling at the insight of somebody's comments and breathing out "That is so true-", or cringing and nearly falling off the edge of your chair with embarrassment as you gasp "Oh God, no-."
I ended up reading start to finish in a single sitting! I'm not one for sad songs or wretched tales, but this is unquestionably compelling reading and as entertaining as life - a great debut novel. Tom Rachman demonstrates very skilful writing; excellent character development in particular - a brilliant example of show not tell.
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"Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which self respect springs."
Joan Didion (1934 - ), 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem'