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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Review: The Imperfectionists — a novel by Tom Rachman

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Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a New York Times bestseller, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman was certainly on my radar as a book that I missed reading in 2010. The first I heard of it was actually in a holiday round-up by the Guardian, then it appeared in other round-ups and the next thing I knew, Tom Rachman was doing a reading at my local bookstore, Ardea Book & Art.

So Tom, let’s see what you’ve got.

The Imperfectionists is a series of linked stories that together form a novel. The characters are various staff members of an English-language newspaper in Rome. Each character is imperfect in his or her own way, as is the newspaper they run.

The table of contents is pretty clever:

“BUSH SLUMPS TO NEW LOW IN POLLS”
Paris Correspondent—Lloyd Burko

“WORLD’S OLDEST LIAR DIES AT 126”
Obituary Writer—Arthur Gopal

“EUROPEANS ARE LAZY, STUDY SAYS”
Business Reporter—Hardy Benjamin

...

Some of the stories were pretty brilliant. My favourites being the interspersed italicized stories of the paper’s original publisher, Cyrus Ott.

The novel, overall, was memorable, but I felt like Rachman’s writing was trying too hard to be clever. Its jolts of insight are many and often back to back, which at times is like reading a series of Jon Stewart intros.

The NY Times review highlights most of the characters and provides a good sense of the novel. I found it enjoyable, and kind of like a newspaper in that some articles are more intriguing than others.

The Imperfectionists: a novel by Tom Rachman
(Published by Anchor Canada)

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