Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome, Tom Rachmans 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 itand themselvesafloat.
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 staffs 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 familys quirky newspaper.
As the era of print news gives way to the Internet age and this imperfect crew stumbles toward an uncertain future, the papers rich history is revealed, including the surprising truth about its founders intentions.
Spirited, moving, and highly original, The Imperfectionists will establish Tom Rachman as one of our most perceptive, assured literary talents.
[The Imperfectionists] details a world where getting the "scoop" often triumphs over empathy for a subject's privacy, and where career ambitions determine the actions of many of the titular "imperfectionists" who struggle with pressures of work and home... Though it is tough to read about selfishness, this debut is noteworthy as a portrayal of everyday lives during decisive moments in a changing landscape. It successfully weaves between workplace drama and domestic tales to combine moments of free-spirited liveliness with a realistic sobriety about relationships that seldom survive the differences between those involved. (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
There are no wasted words in this book, every scene and detail move the characters and story forward. The Imperfectionists will make you laugh and cry. It's the rare novel that can shift emotional tone effortlessly. The newspaper at the heart of the story is mediocre. The Imperfectionists is magnificent.
New York Times - Christopher Buckley
This first novel by Tom Rachman, a London born journalist who has lived and worked all over the world, is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off.... The novel is alternatively hilarious and heart wrenching, and it's assembled like a Rubik's Cube. I almost feel sorry for Rachman, because a debut of this order sets the bar so high.
This acute début portrays the world of neurotic journalists.... Rachman ... paints the characters’ small dramas and private disappointments with humanity and humor.
New York Newsday
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.
The interpolated chapters about the paper's past aren't very interesting; the final entry ends with a ghastly shock; and the postscript is too cute. Nevertheless, it's a very strong debut. Funny, humane and artful.
Starred Review. 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…There are more than enough sublime moments [and] unexpected turns...
Starred Review. With its evocative Italian setting and its timely handling of an industry in flux, this polished, sophisticated debut can be relished in one sitting or read piecemeal as a satisfying series of vignettes linked by historical references to the Ott family empire.
The Financial Times (UK)
Rachman is an admirable stylist. Each chapter is so finely wrought that it could stand alone as a memorable short story... a funny, poignant, occasionally breathtaking novel.
The Daily Mail (UK)
Loaded with charm and insight, the novel brings human tenderness to an inky business.
The Scotsman (UK)
Rachman's strength lies in his rendering of the characters – all 11 are believable, flawed and loveable. The narrative works and forms a coherent whole... funny and prescient, but still full of hope.
Arthur Phillips, author of Prague and The Song Is You
Elegiac and bitter, funny and shocking. A group portrait of fascinating characters with nothing in common but their dedication to a doomed idea. I loved it.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Lit Lover Why are Tragic Lives So Entertaining? A perceptive writer, reporter does not necessarily make a great fictional novelist.
Journalists are addicted to facts and horrific news as the book is evidence of that. Great. But do all readers have to be bashed with the worst part of life to... Read More
Rated of 5
by Bonnie Brody A Private Look into the Life of Journalists Set in Rome, this wonderful novel is about the lives of journalists who all work for the same newspaper. Each chapter can stand on its own in much the same way as Olive Kitteridge.
Many of the journalists hate their jobs, may be misanthropes,... Read More
BB: How has studying cinema informed your writing?
TR: At college, I majored in film studies, so movies certainly affected how I tell stories. One strength of cinema is its speed: a movie must grip you and tell a story fast; it ought to pull you completely into the onscreen world. Movies have limits, though, struggling to move beyond what can be seen and what can be heard. The written story allows you to venture more deeply inside characters - a novel explores those aspects of people that, in day-to-day life, we cannot easily see or hear. This is what I hoped to do in The Imperfectionists, to bare the thoughts of a range of people who weren't necessarily shrieking but who were worth hearing. If my book also contains something of the pacing and directness of a good film, then I would be very happy.
BB: In many of the stories, relationships decline after...
Rich with anthropological and literary allusion, this prize-winning debut set in Europe, Brazil, and New York, tells the parallel stories of two writers struggling with the burden of the past and the uncertainties of the future.
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