23 September 2010

Review: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Tom Rachman's debut novel, The Imperfectionists, is a collection of stories that find common ground in an English-language newspaper, started in Rome in 1954, and focus on the various people associated with it. Each chapter centers around a single character at a specific point of crises in his or her life, and each of these stories could almost stand alone. The beauty of the novel, however, is that characters appear in more than one context and in more than one time period and from more than one perspective, creating a full sense of each person.

We meet managing editors, publishers, owners, young reporters, has-beens, wannabes, and copyeditors. And all the characters are indeed imperfect—some so flawed or naive that it's almost painful to meet them. There are, in fact, few people to like; yet there are many to root for, which makes the book somewhat sad but not depressing, The kernels of hope we find along the way, help take the edge off.

As we learn about each employee, we also learn about the newspaper and how it develops over some fifty-odd years. From newsprint and typesetters and street reporters to computerized layout and electronic filing, the changing rhythms and personality of the paper itself mirror those of the world at large.

Reading The Imperfectionists is almost like putting together a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. At first you see only a little bit, but as the novel progresses, you understand that the pieces interlink, extending chronologically and geographically, to create a picture that leaves you just a bit breathless.

I listened to the audio edition (Recorded Books) read by Christopher Welch, who perfectly guides listeners through the novel, helping us visualize the characters but giving us room for our own interpretations. My full audio review was published by AudioFile magazine.

The Imperfectionists at an Indie
The Imperfectionists at Powell's
The Imperfectionists at Book Depository
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Published by Random House / Dial Press 2010
ISBN-13: 9780385343671
YTD: 82
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A−
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Unknown 9/23/10, 6:13 AM  

I've had my eye on this book for a while now. It was long listed for the Giller prize last week and so that has pushed it up my TBR pile. It is great to see that you enjoyed it too. Now all I've got to do is find a copy!

Sandy Nawrot 9/23/10, 6:54 AM  

I find linked short stories to be very satisfying. You read about a character, then when you see them again later, it is like you are peeking in on an old friend.

Anonymous,  9/23/10, 7:10 AM  

I'm not keen on short stories, but this may work, as they all center around the same people and circumstances.

I'm sure it's fun when it all comes together. A book to keep in mind!

Anonymous,  9/23/10, 7:43 AM  

It sounds like I need to put this book on my wishlist right now :)

bermudaonion 9/23/10, 7:46 AM  

Your review is fantastic, but I can't help but wonder if this is one of those books that would be over my head.

Beth F 9/23/10, 7:59 AM  

Kathy: No -- nothing deep or mysterious; just brilliant storytelling.

Andi 9/23/10, 8:43 AM  

I've been drooling over the cover of this one for a while, and I'm glad to know what's sandwiched between the covers lives up to the expectation. It sounds like a wonderful one.

Amy 9/23/10, 9:02 AM  

I've heard some great things about this book - definitely one that I'm looking forward to at some point.

Michele 9/23/10, 6:19 PM  

This novel has been hovering on my radar since it was released. I hadn't thought about fitting it in on audio....great idea.

Veens 9/23/10, 9:48 PM  

Sounds like a lot lot is packed in it!
I will give it a try if I get a chance!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 9/24/10, 5:14 PM  

Linked short stories are the kind I like. Not that I need another book on the wish list but this one does sound good.

Miz Tipxy 9/25/10, 5:47 PM  

Sounds as if this book is worth the read in a good but scary way.

Anonymous,  9/26/10, 10:46 AM  

Ooh, a good audiobook recommendation. Fantastic! It's added to my list. I've been planning to read this for a while, but I always love to hear about good audiobooks. Maybe I'll listen instead!

S. Krishna 10/1/10, 9:58 AM  

This is one I've been wanting to read. Thanks for the review.

Alice 10/5/10, 8:07 PM  

Your first paragraph got me really interested. I'm beginning to like the sound of short stories even though I am not a big fan of them.

Athira 10/8/10, 9:16 PM  

I have this one on my wishlist, ever since it came out. The books sounds so intriguing!

Literate Housewife 1/2/12, 7:30 PM  

You are officially today's audiobook temptress! Thanks for helping me over the ledge. :)

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