Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Imperfectionists

Tom Rachman's Imperfectionisits is neat idea for a book, the story of a Rome based English language newspaper told through 11 key characters , 10 of the staff and one avid reader. Each chapter features one of the characters as a lead but they all weave in and out of each others stories. It is this cross over as well as the fact that a few pages at the end of each chapter tells the history of the paper that makes this more than a book of linked short stories. It is a clever structure and just about works.

The book tackles the changing face of media, news and journalism through the lives of these damaged people."The corrections editor Herman Cohen nixed all talk of a website "the interent is to news what car horns are to music"
 However a more personal theme of life choices and loneliness also comes through. Among others we meet are the paper's accountant who get stuck on an 11 hour flight next to a journalist who she has made redundant, the rather stuffy with the younger attractive partner and the editor contemplating an affair with an old lover,

The novel suffers from the curse of the cover quote as it is described as hilarious (I won't do my usual rant about what humour planet book critics come from) and as usual for that description the humour is not laugh out loud but gentle and well... humorous. Most of this comes from the usual details of office life and the quirks of a life in papers.

The only problem I had with the book was that all the main characters are damaged people and at some level unhappy either in their relationships and or their work at the failing paper. The characters aren't perfect but are well enough drawn to care what happens to them and for most of them it is more sadness and loneliness that awaits. Therefore you have this weird mix of gentle humour that lulls you into a everything will be okay with the sadness and tragedy of failed hopes failed relationships and unfulfilled dreams.

It is a skill that over the course of a short chapter Rachman can generate feeling so empathy and sympathy but the small scale human sadness makes me wish he had shown a touch more towards his own characters as their lives slowly fall apart.
You can buy the Imperfectionists here

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