The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman   no comments

Posted at 11:29 pm in Book review

Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists is that rare thing in fiction, a novel set within an office. The office in question belongs to a fading international newspaper in Rome whose rather fractious employees are seemingly united only by their occasionally grudging dedication to the paper.  Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different member of the staff–from Editor to CFO–plus a section about a reader.

The stories are all tragicomic in their own ways, perhaps reflecting the gloom hanging over the newspaper industry these days. The reader, Ornella de Monterrecchi, is particularly memorable: feeling compelled to read each edition completely, she is now fifteen years behind, and has banned all modern technology and news-conveying devices from her house so as not to encounter any plot spoilers. Ornella’s son Dario, though he does not merit a chapter of his own, weaves in a pleasantly conniving fashion through the other characters’ lives.

The longer sections are interspersed with a history of the paper, which was founded by an American millionaire industrialist fifty years earlier, for somewhat mysterious reasons. These become clear at the end, in a genuinely elegant resolution. The Imperfectionists paints incisive portraits of both the state of the newspaper industry and some highly memorable characters. Brilliant and un-putdownable: a terrific first novel.

Written by Lorin on September 22nd, 2010

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