The Imperfectionists: A Novel

In Tom Rachman's debut novel, The Imperfectionists, his experience as foreign correspondent and editor at a scrappy English-language newspaper in Rome is the key. The novel (published in April 2010) is focused on the personal lives of various news reporters, executives, copy editors, and the reader. Each chapter focuses on one individual and is a story all its own; together, the whole is greater than the part of its sums and represents the trials, tribulations, and occasional rewards of those involved with an international English language newspaper.

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.

Author Tom Rachman has been a journalist and editor overseas, so this book about the lives of foreign stringers, devoted readers, and jaded newsroom employees is right up his alley. The Imperfectionists: A Novel covers people whose quirks, machinations, fates, and sorrows shape their lives as they doggedly put out at least one edition every day. They aren't romantic figures or dashing heroes. They are people with fears, regrets, secrets, resentments, jealousies, and nearly unbearable hurts. Thanks to Rachman's abilities, the paper's dysfunctional, memorable bunch reminds us that most of us aren't hugely successful, beautiful, or happy, yet life still goes on at one level or another. This conglomeration of stories that gingerly coalesce to form a dreadful picture of the imperfection that both plagues and yet sustains humanity (all within the confines of a struggling newspaper in Rome) highly recommends Rachman's novel.


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