The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

The Imperfectionists follows the birth and demise of a fictional English language newspaper in Rome.  The structure of the novel is basically a string of short stories, each of which focuses on a specific character.  These are intertwined with brief glimpses of the history of the paper from its founding by an eccentric American millionaire to its whimpery end via declining readership and the Internet.

The characters that inhabit the newspaper’s fading offices are a special lot – a seething bunch who backbite and brood with the best that The Office has to offer.  We have the lovelorn, love-burnt, and loveless.  There is the career-bent editor who runs the newspaper with an iron hand but can’t manage her personal woes, the tragedy-stained obituary writer who finds his niche through fate, and the accounts payable faceless (!) director who unexpectedly has to face someone she has laid off during a one night stand.  And these are just the tip of the iceberg. 

“Unexpected” is the word to describe The Imperfectionists.  There are several chapters here that end in jaw-dropping surprise, with at least one of them a grisly end.  I didn’t want to put it down – the chapters taken as short stories make for a breezy read, and there’s plenty of twisted humor here.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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