The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists

A Novel

Book - 2010
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Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome, Tom Rachman's 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 it--and themselves--afloat.

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 staff's personal dramas seem far more important than the daily headlines. Kathleen, the imperious editor in chief, is smarting from a betrayal in her open marria≥ 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 family's quirky newspaper.

As the era of print news gives way to the Internet age and this imperfect crew stumbles toward an uncertain future, the paper's rich history is revealed, including the surprising truth about its founder's intentions.

Spirited, moving, and highly original, The Imperfectionists will establish Tom Rachman as one of our most perceptive, assured literary talents.
Publisher: New York : Dial Press, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385343664
Branch Call Number: RAC
Characteristics: viii, 272 p. ;,25 cm

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BornToCirc
Jun 12, 2020

I found the organization of this book a little disorienting but ultimately the writing made it a good read. You get one chapter profiles of several employees, and the owner, of an English-language newspaper based in Italy. Most of the drama centers around the battle of egos within the employee hierarchy, but there are also lots of side stories about personal lives. Never far from the narrative is whether the paper can earn a profit or whether it is a money pit.

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Einer2
Mar 31, 2020

Not sure why it is so loved! Finished it because I guess I was determined to see what it was about.

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Cas22
Feb 25, 2020

Given the author’s background in journalism, including time as a foreign correspondent, it is not surprising that this fictional story of the rise and fall of an English-language newspaper based in Rome and the complexities and eccentricities of its staff is totally believable. With savvy writing he expertly captures the essence of his disparate characters and their often messy lives. The result is a book which is lively and entertaining, albeit told in a series of vignettes.

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LearnDressage
Nov 24, 2016

This book was a bit disappointing for me. This is an odd because the author did a great job making me care for all his characters. However, this is the books flaw as well. The story is not a story at all but more of a character study. Each chapter we are introduced to a new character, we are made to care for them and their lives and then we are torn from them and introduced to another character. Their lives do not intersect or come together in any meaningful way other than they are all work together for a struggling newspaper. Therefore there isn't much of a plot. Overall, this could've been so much better if the author had focused on a few of his characters and made a story of them vs several wonderful characters without one.

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lakme84
Mar 07, 2016

I kind of lost somewhere in between trying to understand where the author was driving this story towards. It emphasizes more on personal lives rather than on the rise and fall of news-papers. I wished to see some meaty facts about the newspaper revolution, but was diasppointed.

On the positive note, the book really has a good flow and the literature itself is very well connected to each of those stories within.

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lukasevansherman
Aug 07, 2015

There are 27 laudatory blurbs about this book. That's just way too many. The book is thoroughly mediocre. The only mildly interesting feature is that each chapter is about a different character, all linked by a newspaper. Imperfect is right.

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Chapel_Hill_KenMc
Dec 20, 2014

Doesn't really hang together as a novel, but it's an interesting series of linked short stories that explore various characters at an international English-language newspaper in Rome.

sharonb122 Sep 19, 2013

I read this for our "Bookies" group. I enjoyed it. Each chapter focused on a different charater; all were interesting...some humorous, some poignant, others rather sad, but all were "imperfect." All worked for a small newspaper. It dealt with the dying industry of the printed newspaper today, which would make all the charaters obsolete. There was some loose interaction between the charaters that was somewhat hard for me to follow. The Headlines that titled each chaper was cleverly tied to the character and theme of the chapter. Well written

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kleinkid7
Mar 20, 2013

Like Russell Banks' Trailerpark, this is more a collection of separate character pieces anchored to the same entity (in this case, an international newspaper based out of Rome) than a single plot novel. It tells some good stories about some not so good people.

The book reviews are overrated for this novel. The characters are not engaging, however the book is well written and certainly depicts an aspect of life as a journalist which I never would have envisioned myself.

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PaulaHoney Jul 17, 2013

The book gives one chapter to each character connected by an international newspaper based in Rome. Most of the characters are on the newspaper staff, although some are mothers and lovers of newspaper staffers. The book jacket promises a meaningful connection between these many chapters, which is why I pursued the book. However, I did not find the connections particularly meaningful. The chapters, individually, are beautifully written and very sensitive to true human emotion. This is a serious, strong novel. The stories are not happy. Many of the characters deal with depression, loneliness, frustration, futility. The novel displays a bleak outlook on human life, as each person is on their own sinking ship.

AnneDromeda Dec 19, 2011

For my money, 2011 has been the year of the debut novel. Without so intending, I've reviewed more than a few of them in this space, from Matthew Norman's smutty, snarky *Domestic Violets*, to paranormal romance sensation Deborah Harkness' *A Discovery of Witches*, to the vintage appeal and gentle romance of Erin McKean's *The Secret Lives of Dresses*, just to name a couple. I'm not sure why I've been drawn to so many of them this year; maybe it's that the authors pour so much of themselves into these novels? Whatever it is, thank goodness publishing houses have discovered them too, and decided to put the time and resources into marketing these newcomers.<br />

Perhaps the best-written debut novel I read this year is Vancouver author Tom Rachman's *The Imperfectionists*. A compact saga detailing the rise and slow decay of an English-language newspaper based in Rome, it packs a lot of humanity in under 300 pages. <br />

The novel is broken into two parallel narratives. One narrative focuses a chapter at a time on the lives of the various staff working at the paper. This is where Rachman's prose really shines – each chapter is really a character study of the personal and work life of the chapter's subject. Incredible empathy is brought to each character, even those who don't come off at all well in earlier chapters belonging to other characters. All these chapters are set at the end of George W Bush's war in Iraq, as the paper struggles to make ends meet in a fraught economic environment, battling it out in print-only format as the general news media's physical presence slowly fades to bits and evanescent silver LCD screens. Rachman slips seamlessly into the worldview of each subject, letting the personality colour his prose with humour, kindness, exhaustion, or whatever other dominant trait tints each particular worldview.<br />

Between each of the character study chapters are brief narrative chapters detailing major events in the history of the paper. These give context to the character studies, and help build anticipation as the reader moves toward the conclusion of the book – will the paper's staunch anti-electronic stance gain it a certain cachet in the market? Will staff be able to amp up their investigative skills and their feature writing to gain enough new readers? Can the paper possibly survive the strife in its Board?<br />

With a spare, empathic beauty to its writing, *The Imperfectionists* is a masterpiece of a debut novel. It's earned a place solidly within my list of top 5 reads for the year, and is well worth a glance for readers who value spare, lyrical prose in character-driven literary fiction.

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VanessaD
Jul 21, 2010

"Here is a fact: nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambiton. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshipped by man." page 38

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