Top critical review
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More like a short story collection than a novel
on 13 December 2010
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.