by Tom Rachman
When a novel receives the kind of high-profile rave reviews this one has, reader reaction generally goes one of two ways. You'll either be disappointed, or you'll jump on the bandwagon. Move over; make some room on the bandwagon.
As others have noted, the novel is made up of a collection of linked stories. Each story is told from the POV of an employee of "the paper," or in one case a reader. The paper is a small, second-rate international newspaper published by American expatriates in Rome. Readership is low and dropping all the time, and the publication doesn't even have a web presence! It really is an artifact of another time, though these are pressures being faced currently by more or less every newspaper in the world.
It is with the background stressors of budget cuts, limited resources, and threatened layoffs that we peek through episodic windows at the characters that make up the collage of this novel. And despite the setting and what I described above, The Imperfectionists is much more about their personal lives than their professional ones. Much of the novel is about the relationships that make up our lives: the complicated algebra of male/female relationships, the power struggles between friends, the games we play, the sacrifices we make.
All of the above make for great drama, but the book, actually, has an absolutely delightful sense of humor. Some of the chapters are uproariously funny, others are heavier. Even with the humor, however, there's a thread of melancholy that runs through the novel, adding a real poignancy.
I read a lot, but I never feel that I can find enough time to read. Every time I picked up this book, the pages just melted away. I read it in no time flat, and Tom Rachman left me wanting more. What else can I say? I'll save a spot on the bandwagon for you.