Christopher Buckley of the New York Times wrote that The Imperfectionists was “so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off.” That’s the sort of work Tom Rachman has done with this book. It’s called a novel, but it is really a series of vignettes revealing the lives of staff (along with the owners and a subscriber) at an international English language newspaper based in Rome. Thus, the only character present throughout the entire book is the newspaper. Having worked as a journalist, Rachman has the insider insight to add satisfying depth and details to his fictional paper.
There are so many bittersweet romantic notions surrounding the dying newspaper industry, which are thrown into even starker contrast by the oddity of an English language paper in Rome (the reason why the paper exists to begin with adds even more heartbreaking truth to this). That being the case makes this particular setting the perfect backdrop for the bittersweet moments (although some are just bitter) of the various characters we meet in this book.
Rachman’s prose is perfect, and fans of word craft should definitely read this book. His short glimpses into the lives of these folks is carefully wrought to let each feel whole, like all the best writers of short stories have the power to do.
I read the book back in early February, and it was a part of what started to get the creative forces in my heart thawing. It’s one of those things that is just so wonderfully crafted that it made me want to create something of my own, writing so good it made me want to write. I can’t imagine offering anything higher praise than that.