The Imperfectionists: A Novel Hardcover – Apr 6 2010
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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 (Front-Page 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
“The Imperfectionists 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
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Top Customer Reviews
Each chapter takes us into the personal life of one person associated with the paper. They weave together beautifully, but would stand up rather well as separate short stories. Some have described this book as 'humour' - perhaps, but it would definitely be of the dark or bittersweet variety. While a large theme of the book seems to deal with disappointment, it is not depressing.
Some of my favourite bits include entries in the paper's style guide such as this one on the use of the word "literally":
literally: this word should be deleted. All too often, actions described as "literally" did not happen at all. As in, "He literally jumped out of his skin." No, he did not. [...] Inserting "literally" willy-nilly reinforces the notion that breathless nitwits lurk within this newsroom. Eliminate on sight - the usage, not the nitwits. The nitwits are to be captured and placed in the cages I have set up in the subbasement. See also: Excessive Dashes; Exclamation points; and Nitwits.
This is a book that would stand up to re-reading and I intend to do just that.
From another readers' Amazon.com review: "From my reading, I'm guessing that Tom Rachman is not only a wonderful writer, but a wonderful guy." I have to agree. After reading this, you will wish this guy was your friend.
So get back to me later, or tell me something to help me in my reading of this book. Cheers.
Most recent customer reviews
I read this book twice and liked it better the second time. The characters were interesting and the inter personal relationships very clever. It was a great story. Read morePublished on Jan. 3 2014 by AG
I read it because it was on my book club list but I didn't think there was a point to it. It was not a difficult read.Published on Oct. 29 2013 by Margaret Lovegrove
Some characters are despicable. Most of all a bunch of losers. The title is appropriate. Easy to read, short chapters. Read morePublished on Oct. 29 2011 by Lou
Well, it spent almost a year on my "to read" list, and finally its turn came up. As serendipity would have it, this delightful first novel by Tom Rachmann turned out to be the... Read morePublished on Aug. 7 2011 by Vlad Thelad