Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Spied an end of the year review of this on NPR, waited for it at the library, got tired of waiting and picked it up at B & N, read it in two days.  This totally absorbing tale of an internationnal newspaper based out of Rome is a love letter to newspapers and the people that work at them.  It is a sad tale of one person's love and how he manifested his love in a business...the newspaper business.  The owner's love unfolds as you learn more about the history of the paper and we   understand the complete story gradually by looking at it from the point of view of a dozen different employees that are related to the paper in some way.  We hear the tales of the copy editors, the news editors, the stringers and the publisher.  Each man or woman is flawed and made whole by their work at the newspaper or in the journalism business.   Each character adds to the tale of the newspaper.

Each of the stories stands alone and the reader sees the threads of the paper and the other characters appear and disappear in each chapter.  No character gets more than one chapter: you won't get terribly attached to one story even though they all feel compelling and meaningful.  Almost all the characters are well drawn and sympathetic: the copy editor who loves his life and job, the Egypt stringer who has no idea how to be a journalist,  the reader who keeps up with the news as best she can, the owner who doesn't really care about the paper and so on. All these points of view draw you into the real story about the rise and fall of a small  newspaper: who started it and what's to become of it in the era of all things on-line and all the struggles in between.  

This is the kind of book that turns a traditional narrative on its head, but works oh so very well.  I have been thinking a lot lately about different ways of presenting a narrative: how to organize story by thoughts or by point of view or by alternate chronology.  This novel was so interesting and so thrilling because it was told in a completely different and very interesting manner.  The telling of these tales collectively left some mysteries that the reader solves but the characters never do.  The whole thing felt sweet and sad and achingly true. 

The Imperfectionists is a stunning and accessible story, and I hope everyone takes an evening or two to read it.  You will be enchanted.

1 comment:

Steph said...

Amy, Please keep up the good reviews! I share your blog often!