The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman
This is an unusual book, billed as a novel it’s actually a collection of short stories around the central character of an international newspaper run out of an office in Rome. Characters from one story sometimes turn up in other stories but often they never reappear, this feels a little bit sad in some cases, as you grow fond of the characters and want to read more about them. But that gripe is testament to the quality of the writing and the depth of characters that are drawn in such short spaces of time, both of which are excellent. We start with the story of Lloyd Burko a struggling journalist working on the periphery of the paper, and then as the short stories continue we go deeper into the lives of those actually in the offices in Rome and also into the sorry lives of the paper’s management. Plus we hear the story of one of its readers a woman who has read every copy of the paper from cover to cover and is subsequently living approximately 15 years behind current times.
I’ve never worked in journalism, but this book was a good insight into that world and it is perhaps fitting that it should be shot out in segments, with newspaper-like headlines and character name by-lines, just like a newspaper is constructed each day. While each story in itself can stand alone, as a whole the book manages to give us a complete picture of the changing face of journalism in the digital age, and the universal story of man’s struggle to survive in a challenging economic climate, and thus like a newspaper comes together to create a whole entity.
I’d recommend this book, it is enjoyable and its characters and the general story have stayed with me since reading it, which is an impressive achievement given its episodic form.
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