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on September 1, 2015
After a really slow start (I had to prod myself to keep reading), this turned out to be a excellent book, full of the study of human nature. Each chapter is devoted to a different employee of an American international newspaper in Rome. from the beginning to it's demise some 40 or 50 years later, and you get a full sense of their private as well as professional lives, and how they all fit in together. I will definitely re-read this book in the future - it will be on my permanent rotation list.
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on February 20, 2015
Quite a new structure for a novel - had to re-read it to really understand it - once you do, it is simple. Lives of ordinary people behind lofty titles like "editor-in-chief," "war-correspondent," etc. is fascinatingly "common." Takes apart the "literary" world, and brings it down to earth! Good job!
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on September 26, 2017
The Imperfectionists is beautifully, humorously and sensitively written. Each character in the newspaper room is flawed, neurotic, and in their own way at times heroic. EAch has real individuality and a story that touches us. A beautiful, thoroughly enjoyable book, highly recommended!
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on August 9, 2017
An incredible book with very true portrayal of the life of journalists. I am shocked it didn't make more waves and highly recommend as an enjoyable, yet thought provoking read. One of the rare books that you can both read at a beach or assign to a college class.
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on April 8, 2015
The title of this book, along with adjectives like "topsy-turvy" in the reviews, suggest that the novel is humorous and quirky. In fact, the characters are quirky but the story is rarely humorous . . . making for a rather disappointing result.

My two complaints: Although I rarely choose collections of short stories, this novel could have been redeemed if the story had circled back around to each character or somehow tied the characters together more convincingly. You're left in the middle of an unresolved and disturbing scenario for many of the characters, and you never get to find out how their stories really unfold from there.

Second, nearly all of the characters are cruel and exploitative or the victims of such people. Had there been a sense of justice toward the offenders, or empowerment on the part of the victims, this could have been a fine novel.
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on October 26, 2014
This novel took a couple of chapters to figure out what the author was up to, how his characters fit into a coherent plot, and how the structure was going to pull it all together, but it was so worth not giving up on it and skipping to another Kindle book in my list. Rachmaninoff is one of the best author's I've read in a while. This is well-written and witty and very insightful. It was a joy to read-at once funny, heartbreaking, and intelligent.
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on June 18, 2013
Thankfully, Tom Rachman's writing in The Imperfectionists contains little of its title's promise; its characters on the other hand, clearly deserve the moniker, though, it's important to say, no more than any of us do.

Though Rachman's book is subtitled "a novel," I feel, cynically perhaps, that this had more to do with marketing that accurate genre identification. The book consists of eleven short vignettes, each exploring one of the characters that work at a quickly failing, but once prestigious, newspaper in Rome. While the stories do intersect because the characters turn up in each others' stories, sometimes briefly, sometimes centrally, the suggestion implied by "a novel" that you're reading a forward moving narrative which explores a central conflict or tension is spurious. Each character is connected, like spokes on a wheel, to the inevitable fate of an old fashioned newspaper in a digital age (one which refuses to start a website!); however, what makes this book really engaging is that each story reveals a fully round human being with wants and needs and idiosyncrasies that render him or her a self-sustaining character of a short story. In fact, I'm considering teaching a few of these chapters as short stories in my current AP Lit Unit on that genre.

What also connects these stories structurally is that from beginning to end, we are moved closer and closer to the "heart" of the newspaper's seat of power. We begin with Lloyd Burko, a Paris correspondent sipping on his last bitter journalistic dregs who is forced by financial considerations to bend his ethics. But he is outside the circle of characters in Rome proper. We progress from journalists, to editors, to a most devoted reader, and finally to bizarre and anemic Oliver Ott, the namesake of the paper's founder, who finds himself completely uninterested in business and seemingly incapable of engaging in human communication. Each chapter devoted to a character is juxtaposed with an italicized, chronological history of the paper.
These shorts function as a narrative glue which bind each character's fate to the newspaper's and deepen one of the book's trenchant "arguments": the dividing line public and private is illusory, that as the idiom goes, all politics is local, and that the manner and form in which we digest what happens in the world intimately affects those who do. As one of the best lines in the book, spoken by luddite newsman Herman Cohen suggests, "The internet is to news...what cars horns are to music" (222). In some ways, the book is an exploration of what happens when journalists who have been trained to make music, realize that the world prefers car horns.

The best stories of the lot are the ones devoted to Craig Menzies, Ornella De Monterecchi and Abbey Pinnola respectively. These three could easily stand on their own as exceptionally interesting short stories; Abbey's especially ends in a very surprising and dark place, which strongly echoes the stories of Joyce Carol Oates. Ornella, a reader of the paper rather than an employee, hoards newpapers and has an inability to allow any part to go unread. This, of course, proves utterly time consuming and so she winds up "living" decades in the past, having just read those old stories. Ornella's story is the most powerful one in the collection which demonstrates both the power of language to shape our worlds and our stubborn need to order the chaos of modern life.

I recommend this book enthusiastically. It's a quick read, you'll meet some very interesting people, and you'll get a chance to encounter Rachman's writing, as he, hopefully, continues to be a fresh creative American literary voice.
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on January 12, 2011
At first I didn't like this book. I was almost half way through it and I couldn't figure out what was going on. Every chapter seemed to be a new character, or at least one that I couldn't remember. I started thinking that I was too old to keep track of them all in my mind and maybe I needed to take notes.

But because I knew this had gotten good reviews, I went back out on Amazon to see what people were saying. Ahhh...it was a character a chapter, and what they all had in common was the newspaper that they worked at. Once I understood that, I was able to enjoy each chapter for what it was, which was almost a short story in and of itself.

I enjoyed the tone of the writing and I highlighted a few passages. Some of them:

"She cracks a Heineken and drinks it before the open fridge, her mind emptying with the can. The sharp corners of her day go smooth."

"If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power."


"You know, there's that silly saying 'We're born alone and we die aone' - it's nonsense. We're surrounded at birth and surrounded at death. It is in between that we're alone."

Again, once you understand what the book is and what it isn't, it is a wonderful read.
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on November 23, 2016
This novel features wonderful characters that you'll think about long after you finish the book. The author has linked what are essentially short stories about each person with their jobs at an American newspaper in Rome, Italy. Each character's story is fascinating, and seeing the men and women show up in other stories give the reader a "3-D" picture of each of their personalities. I read a lot and don't usually think about a book after I finish it, but this book is the exception!
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VINE VOICEon March 30, 2014
Not too many American writers do satire well, but Tom Rachman proves to be the exception. His zeroes in on the foibles and vanities of community of ex-pats producing a heavily-subsidized newspaper in Rome during the end of the 20th century. At first I found him a little mean, but as I kept reading, either he mellowed or I got caught up what he was doing; it was so delicious, I was hooked. My favorite vignette featured a female executive and an editor she has just made redundant (he doesn't know she did it) who find themselves side by side on a flight back to Atlanta. If you're a news junkie or work in journalism, this will bring a smile to your lips. Rachman skewers his characters equally, up and down the masthead.
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