Review of “The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman

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.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by The Dial Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010

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24 Responses to Review of “The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman

  1. I have the Kindle version (unread still) story of my life. This one has seemed to be getting mixed reviews, but worth a try.

  2. litlove says:

    Ooh I have this to read and have heard good things about it. I really like the idea of character-based vignettes. Thank you for the review!

  3. Sandy says:

    Jury is out on this one. Seems like a good book but not a great one?

  4. Care says:

    I really liked this one and it has staying power. I still remember the characters and my favorites of the story lines. I thought it better than Goon Squad, actually.

  5. Patti Smith says:

    I want to try this one…a little something different.

  6. This one has been hovering around on my radar. I’m still not sure what I think but this review is pushing my towards wanting to give it a try. Thanks Jim and Happy New Year to you both.

  7. New title to me… sounds interesting

  8. BermudaOnion says:

    Books written like that are hit or miss for me. This one sounds interesting since it’s about a newspaper. Thanks for the review.

  9. brolee says:

    Have walked by this book, paused briefly, and then kept going so many times. Not sure what has kept me from picking it up, but I think I’d really enjoy it!

  10. zibilee says:

    I had been thinking about reading this one, and sort of felt drawn to it for some reason. It sounds like a book that I would really like a lot. Thanks for sharing your perspective with us, Jim!

  11. K.S. Schultz says:

    I am working on character exercises and reading books where the author has shown the fallibility of characters well, so thank you for pointing me in the direction of The Imperfectionists.

  12. softdrink says:

    Wait…aren’t you going to read this one?? I liked it. Especially the last story…ouch!

  13. Alyce says:

    This is one that I had heard about but then forgot about before I managed to give it a closer look. I’m still not sure if I want to read it though.

  14. Jenny says:

    I’m glad you found an uplifting quality to this… I’ve been interested in it but afraid of how depressing I’ve heard it is.

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    Interesting way to tell a story. The poor newspaper, knowing his time has come.

  16. Lisa says:

    This is on my TBR list — I think it looks great. I hope I can get to it soon.

  17. Julie P. says:

    Not sure this is for me, but the premise sounds unique.

  18. Kailana says:

    This book has been on my wish list for ages, but still haven’t really looked into it…

  19. Amy says:

    I recently read a summary of this book and was intrigued so I’m happy to know you generally enjoyed the book, Jim. It saddens me a bit that some papers are being replaced by modern technology but modern technology and I don’t always get a long! lol The characters in this book sound interesting and entertaining – ‘imperfect’ and ‘self-delusional’ sound too good to pass up. Great review, Jim, thank you!

  20. Staci says:

    I’m glad that you like to read books like this so that I don’t have to!! I love reading about them from your well-written and witty reviews!

  21. This is a staff pick at our local bookshop – I haven’t yet read it, but Jim’s comment that it’s reminiscent of Updike, coupled with Other Jill’s push (with the “ouch” teaser), have me adding it to my wishlist.

  22. Trish says:

    Like the brief style! 😉

    vignettes sometimes work for me and sometimes don’t–I find it takes a crafty writer who is able to pull things together neatly. But I do really like the idea of sympathetic characters. Other Jill put this on my radar first but you have me wanting to actually seek it out!

  23. Lisa says:

    Interesting way of telling a story, which always makes me want to pick a book up. This is one that’s been on my “maybe” list for a while but I think I’ll give it a shot.

  24. Pingback: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman | Picky Girl: I read. I teach. I blog. (pickily)

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