Printing presses whirr, ashtrays smolder, and the endearing complexity of humanity plays out in Tom Rachman's debut novel, The Imperfectionists
. Set against the backdrop of a fictional English-language newspaper based in Rome, it begins as a celebration of the beloved and endangered role of newspapers and the original 24/7 news cycle. Yet Rachman pushes beyond nostalgia by crafting an apologue that better resembles a modern-day Dubliners
than a Mad Men
exploration of the halcyon past. The chaos of the newsroom becomes a stage for characters unified by a common thread of circumstance, with each chapter presenting an affecting look into the life of a different player. From the comically overmatched greenhorn to the forsaken foreign correspondent, we suffer through the painful heartbreaks of unexpected tragedy and struggle to stifle our laughter in the face of well-intentioned blunders. This cacophony of emotion blends into a single voice, as the depiction of a paper deemed a "daily report on the idiocy and the brilliance of the species" becomes more about the disillusion in everyday life than the dissolution of an industry. --Dave Callanan
“Marvelous … A rich, thrilling book that is both a love letter to and epitaph for the newspaper world…Mr. Rachman’s transition from journalism to fiction writing is nothing short of spectacular. The Imperfectionists
is a splendid original, filled with wit and structured so ingeniously that figuring out where the author is headed is half the reader’s fun. The other half comes from his sparkling descriptions not only of newspaper office denizens but of the tricks of their trade, presented in language that is smartly satirical yet brimming with affection.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"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. I still haven't answered that question, nor do I know how someone so young ... could have acquired such a precocious grasp of human foibles. The novel is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching."
—Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review
"[An] acute debut…[Rachman] paints the characters’ small dramas and private disappointments with humanity and humor."
—The New Yorker
“[A] beguiling first novel…One by one these journalists are trotted through their tragicomic hamster wheels…Rachman [is] always finding new ways to surprise us.”
“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. . . . some of the chapters are absolute gems.”
—Dallas Morning News
will make you laugh and cry. It's the rare novel that can shift emotional tone effortlessly . . . Magnificent.”—Seattle Post Intelligencer
“Rachman has created a series of vividly memorable characters.”
—The Boston Globe
“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…. funny, poignant, occasionally breathtaking.”
“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, 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
“A very strong debut. Funny, humane and artful”
"[A] polished, sophisticated debut"
"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."
—Arthur Phillips, author of Prague
and The Song Is You
"Tom Rachman is absolutely a writer to watch, with the ingenious knack of getting under the skin of his characters. The Imperfectionists
offers a witty, poignant glimpse into the universe of expatriates living in Rome, and the dreams, stress, and melodrama of a small newspaper. Rachman is clearly at home in these worlds, and his portrait is alternately hilarious, sad, intensely human, and always spot-on in its accuracy."
—Andrea Lee, author of Lost Hearts in Italy