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The Imperfectionists Hardcover – 4 Mar 2010

36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus; First Edition; 1st printing. edition (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849160295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849160292
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.8 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 402,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Rachman was born in London and raised in Vancouver. A graduate of the University of Toronto and the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, he has been a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, stationed in Rome, and worked as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He lives in Rome.

Product Description


'Rachman is an admirable stylist. Each chapter is so finely wrought that it could stand alone as a memorable short story... Funny, poignant, occasionally breathtaking novel' Financial Times.

'sketched with lively charm... loaded with charm and insight, the novel brings human tenderness to an inky business besieged by budget cuts and online competition' Daily Mail.

'Rachman has a real gift for capturing a life in a few sentences ... we realise the book has taken us through the 50-year life of the newspaper, and brought to life a moving cast of characters. By turns, funny and desperately sad, Rachman's always readable novel is a terrific debut' The Jewish Chronicle.

'A precise, playful fiction with a deep but lightly worn intelligence' Times Literary Supplement.

'Vignettes packed with poignant insights and laugh out loud dialogue, the reader is left amazed and delighted by this new author whose prose is reminiscent of Portman and Vonnegut yet wholly and wonderfully his own. Buy this book!' Canada Post.

'The Imperfectionists is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching, and it's assembled like a Rubik's cube ... a cross between Evelyn Waugh's Scoop and Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing adventure ... (this) is so good I had to read it twice' New York Times Book Review. 'Hilarious and poignant debut... Rachman's strength lies in the rendering of the characters - all 11 are believable, flawed and lovable... The Imperfectionists is funny and prescient, but still full of hope' Yorkshire Post.

'Light-footed lyricism... a series of acutely observed character sketches and a poignant sense of nostalgia' Glasgow Herald. 'Anyone who has ever spent time in newspaperland will recognize The Imperfectionists' high degree of authenticity. So will quite a few people beyond' Guardian.

From the Inside Flap

The newspaper was founded in Rome in the 1950s, a product of passion and a multi-millionaire's fancy. Over fifty years, its eccentricities earned a place in readers' hearts around the globe. But now, circulation is down, the paper lacks a website, and the future looks bleak. Still, those involved in the publication seem to barely notice. The obituary writer is too busy avoiding work. The editor-in-chief is pondering sleeping with an old flame. The obsessive reader is intent on finishing every old edition, leaving her trapped in the past. And the dog-crazy publisher seems less interested in his struggling newspaper than in his magnificent basset hound, Schopenhauer. The Imperfectionists interweaves the stories of eleven unusual and endearing characters who depend on the paper. Often at odds, they are united when the focus of their lives begins to fall apart. Funny and moving, the novel is about endings - the end of life, the end of sexual desire, the end of the era of newspapers - and about what might rise afterward.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ashley on 13 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book based on the glowing reviews I'd read in the media. However, I found myself enjoying it less and less as I read. By the half-way point, I had to psych myself up to read it. Normally the writing style is what lets a book down for me, but I found Rachman's style unobtrusive and easy to read.

My main complaint was the vignette-like structure of the novel. Although a clever idea, I felt it was more like a collection of short stories than a novel. Each chapter focused on one character working for an English-language newspaper in Rome, while making only background appearances in the other chapters. I kept expecting the author to bring all the individual storylines together in a meaningful way, but I felt like it never really happened (although maybe I just never 'got' it!).

I also found it very difficult to care for any of the characters. Only a few were likeable and after the first couple of chapters it was apparent that we would never get a second chapter with each 'main' character anyway, so there was little point in becoming invested.

Overall, I would say that the book was well-written (which was mainly why I gave it 3 stars) and I would be likely to give Rachman's future work a read. However, the short story style and lack of emotion I felt towards any of the characters put me off, meaning that I struggled to finish the book in the end.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lucy on 27 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book and was constantly surprised and fascinated by the stories and characters that it contained. There is a common link - the characters all work at an international newspaper - and their paths are expertly inter-woven. However, each character's world is so expertly drawn that each 'chapter' is the equivalent of a fabulous self-contained short story. I have never read anything quite like it. It is perfectly possible to read just a chapter/story/character and feel satisfied but I could not - I wanted to find out about the next person, his/her life and his/her story. The observation of the characters is so detailed, and depicted so accurately that it is impossible not to empathize with each of them - warts and all. The full range of human emotions and experiences are contained within the stories - love, loss, denial, jealousy, anger, frustration, fear and revenge. It is sometimes very funny and at other times very sad. This book is ideal for anyone who is interested in people and what makes them tick; it is great for those who don't want trash but can't face anything too highbrow at the end of a long day and it will move all who read it. Unforgettable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom Doyle on 7 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
This book about the characters working in an international English-language newspaper based in Rome had me laughing out loud. Perhaps, as a journalist myself, I had a particular interest, but this intriguing novel, with each chapter told from the perspective of one of the newspaper's employees, is a first rate comic read. There are obituary writers hiding in the office corner hoping to reach 5pm without someone important dropping dead, old timers desperate for a scoop, self-important corrections editors, hopeless new kids who like the idea but not the reality of being a hack, ambitious editors with mixed up private lives, lonely sub-editors at war with the world, mad readers, reclusive publishers, hard-nosed managing editors. Working on a paper myself, I could spot each type immediately, and the descriptions rang so true -- Rachman himself has worked as an editor at the International Herald Tribune, from where you imagine that many of the characters emerged and were fictionalised. The chapter on Winston Cheung, the naive reporter trying his hand at being the Cairo stringer, while being manipulated and bullied by Snyder, a crafty veteran wearing khaki whose merciless amorality in pursuit of a story is hilariously described, is quite brilliant. The chapter on Ruby Zaga, the sad sub, also hits the mark, as does the one on the corrections editor, who is putting together a 'style guide' to beat all style guides... and driving his co-workers half crazy. The story moves along through the eyes of the characters, and a picture of the newspaper builds up... with budget cuts and redundancies always looming. It's a great journo book, if not in the class of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop or Michael Frayn's excellent Towards the End of the Morning. But still very good and very funny.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on 16 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Experienced in international journalism, writer Tom Rachaman has produced a book filled with journalists and their métier. Despite being labeled as a novel, "The imperfectionists" is a collection of short stories linked by characters and their surroundings. At the center is an American newspaper based in Rome, and its employees. At the back of each section of the book there is the story of rise and fall of the publication.

The daily routine of a newspaper is the background of the book, whose center are the characters and their dilemmas - not all of them journalism related. The description of people and places are especially illuminating. "Arthur's cubicle used to be near the watercooler, but the bosses tired of having to chart with him each time they got thirsty. So the watercooler stayed and he moved. Now his desk is in a distant corner, as far from the locus of power as possible but nearer the cupboard of pens, which is a consolation." And the narrative are related to the character's position in the newspaper.

Rachman is smart enough to build up small gems of stories with sensible perception of dislocation - most of the characters are living abroad - and the feeling of not belonging. The author's capable of bring an insightful view of the world of journalism ("`news' is often a polite way of saying `editor's whim'"). His prose is at the same time funny and deep, and, at the end, is tribute to all those daring people whose lives are devoted to bring us news everyday - who somebody defines `as touchy as cabaret performers and as stubborn as factory machinists'.
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