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The Imperfectionists: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – January 4, 2011
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"Regretting You" by Colleen Hoover
From New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us comes a novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal that will touch the hearts of both mothers and daughters. | Learn more
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—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"This first novel by Tom Rachman, a London-born journalist who has lived and worked all over the world, is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off. I still haven't answered that question, nor do I know how someone so young ... could have acquired such a precocious grasp of human foibles. The novel is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching."
—Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review (Front-Page Review)
"[An] acute debut…[Rachman] paints the characters’ small dramas and private disappointments with humanity and humor."
—The New Yorker
“[A] beguiling first novel…One by one these journalists are trotted through their tragicomic hamster wheels…Rachman [is] always finding new ways to surprise us.”
“Charming. .. . The print newspaper may be an endangered species, but the newsroom - with its deadlines, quirky characters and investigative crusades - still makes for a good story.”
—New York Newsday
“Laced with humor, irony and compassion. . . . some of the chapters are absolute gems.”
—Dallas Morning News
“The Imperfectionists will make you laugh and cry. It's the rare novel that can shift emotional tone effortlessly . . . Magnificent.”
—Seattle Post Intelligencer
“Rachman has created a series of vividly memorable characters.”
—The Boston Globe
“Rachman is an admirable stylist. Each chapter is so finely wrought that it could stand alone as a memorable short story. Slowly, the separate strands become entwined and the line characters have drawn between their work and home lives is erased…. funny, poignant, occasionally breathtaking.”
“In his zinger of a debut, Rachman deftly applies his experience as foreign correspondent and editor to chart the goings-on at a scrappy English-language newspaper in Rome. Chapters read like exquisite short stories, As the ragtag staff faces down the implications of the paper's tilt into oblivion, there are more than enough sublime moments, unexpected turns and sheer inky wretchedness to warrant putting this on the shelf next to other great newspaper novels.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A very strong debut. Funny, humane and artful”
"[A] polished, sophisticated debut"
"Elegiac and bitter, funny and shocking. A group portrait of fascinating characters with nothing in common but their dedication to a doomed idea. I loved it."
—Arthur Phillips, author of Prague and The Song Is You
"Tom Rachman is absolutely a writer to watch, with the ingenious knack of getting under the skin of his characters. The Imperfectionists offers a witty, poignant glimpse into the universe of expatriates living in Rome, and the dreams, stress, and melodrama of a small newspaper. Rachman is clearly at home in these worlds, and his portrait is alternately hilarious, sad, intensely human, and always spot-on in its accuracy."
—Andrea Lee, author of Lost Hearts in Italy
About the Author
- Item Weight : 7.8 ounces
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1849160317
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385343671
- Publisher : Dial Press Trade Paperback; 1st Edition (January 4, 2011)
- Product Dimensions : 5.17 x 0.63 x 7.98 inches
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0385343671
- Best Sellers Rank: #480,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The Imperfectionists (2010) is Rachman’s debut novel that follows the private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English-language newspaper in Rome as they struggle to keep it and themselves going. Each chapter reads like a short story as the characters are brought forward. Fifty years and many changes later, the paper founded by a millionaire from Atlanta resides in a dingy office with stains on the carpet. Nothing about the editor, the lazy obituary writer, the financial officer, a freelance writer that makes up news in order to get noticed, disappoint for they are but a few of the compelling, interesting, funny, pathetic, brilliant people I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I can’t say enough positive things about this story, this writer, this experience of entering Rachman’s world of journalism fictionalized by an author with credentials that make this a delightful, authentic read.
The other issue is that there's no kindness to be found in the thing. We take a close-third zoom through the lives of a group of people who are either contemptible, pathetic, or both. They're put in difficult situations, given tough choices, given opportunities to blossom or transcend, but they don't. They are petty, and confronted with their pettiness they remain petty. No one is redeemed, and there is no warmth here, or at least, nothing that isn't fleeting. If you wanted to curl up with a book that would make you feel like shooting yourself in the head, but in a kind of clever and witty way, well, you've found your man.
What's remarkable about this last criticism is that the writing in this collection is so jaw-droppingly wise, so honest and earnest and slick, that I don't know what to do with the overall ethos. That a writer of such staggering talent chooses this trajectory through these set pieces is, well, I dunno what it is. Some people, myself included, believe that literature should give you a way forward, even if the sense of the way forward evaporates before the kettle starts boiling. This collections contains none of that, and I probably shouldn't blame the author for it. But there's a lot of things I shouldn't do and yet keep doing anyway. Rachman's characters and I have that in common, anyway.
Aside from these critiques, this book has its moments, and they are as moving and powerful as anything I've read anywhere. The first chapter, in particular, will sit you down and cause you to pour yourself a bourbon, even if you have no bourbon to hand, even if you don't even like bourbon, because after Rachman's existential fugue on death and meaning you will need a drink, and by God you will find one whatever your circumstances. It takes a person of wisdom and profound moral seriousness to conceive a work as substantial as The Imperfectionists, and a rare literary gift to deliver it in the way he's delivered it. Practically anyone would die happy to have written a book half as good as this one, but the fact that Rachman is capable of writing it moves me to knock off a star: if a man can hang the moon, I want to see him do it, damn it. His second novel will probably cause the planet to explode.
Top reviews from other countries
The real main character of the book is the international American newspaper based in Rome, chugging along over a handful of decades, providing insights into the lives of the people connected to it - publishers, editors, writers, readers - and their passions, their triumphs and their failings.
This is an immensely human novel, told from multiple characters' points of view, that coalesces into a moving story of our imperfect reading of other people's motivations. I was, in the end, sad to finish it. A grower, for me.
The only unifying thread to this series of short stories seems to be the rise & fall of a mediocre newspaper and that was also disappointingly tedious.
Will not recommend.