Note: This review is by my husband Jim.
Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists is a mixed genre work, having the characteristics of both a novel and a collection of short stories. The unifying entity of the book is a fictional international English-language newspaper, published in Rome, Italy. Rachman tells us that the name of the owner-publisher (Ott) appears in the masthead of the paper, but he never gives the paper itself a name.
Each chapter is a vignette that follows an individual owner, employee, or reader of the newspaper. Although each chapter covers only a short time, it so typifies the featured character that we know his or her life story by the end. Rachman has an ability to limn the essence of his characters in a few pages of dialog, much like John Updike. All the characters are imperfect, self-delusional in varying degrees, and quite realistic with the exception of one truly batty reader and one obnoxiously exploitive “stringer,” who seem to be included for their humorous value.
Evaluation: The overall tone of the book is sad, with the paper itself moribund, becoming obsolete as it is replaced by modern technology. Nevertheless, I found the book uplifting because of the sympathetic manner in which each character, no matter how unpleasant, was portrayed.
Published by The Dial Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010