The Imperfectionists Synopsis
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. (The Book Depository)
The Imperfectionists is structured as a series of easy to read vignettes that provide the necessary background for each of the characters, an eclectic mix of people that are linked by their association with the paper over its history. The titles for each of these chapters are written as newspaper headlines, such as ‘Global Warming Good For Ice Creams’ and ‘The Sex Lives of Islamic Extremists’. See a full listing of the The Imperfectionists chapter headings here. These chapter headings are just one of the ways Rachman displays his appealing wit and tongue-in-cheek sensibility throughout this novel.
Clint Oakley, Arthur’s boss, is a dandruff-raining, baseball obsessed, sexually resentful Alabamian with a toilet-brush mustache and an inability to maintain eye contact. He is also the culture editor, an ironic posting if considered. “Rectum,” he says, apparently meaning Arthur, and struts back to his office.
If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power. Sadly, the paper has not heeded this truism, because Clint has authority over all special sections, including obituaries.
The novel and subject matter shift from laugh out loud moments to the immensely moving and profound.
“But my point, you see, is that death is misunderstood. The loss of one’s life is not the greatest loss. It is no loss at all. To others, perhaps, but not to oneself. From one’s own perspective, experience simply halts. From one’s own perspective, there is no loss. You see?”
“We enjoy this illusion of continuity, and we call it memory. Which explains, perhaps, why our worst fear isn’t the end of life but the end of memories.”
The honesty with which Rachman has developed and then exposed his characters to his audience in The Imperfectionists is refreshing and compelling.
I was so enthralled that I read this novel in one sitting, never quite knowing what to expect around the next corner. It’s a real page-turner. It’s actually quite apt that I did read this title in paperback given the underlying tone laments the loss of print media’s ascendency to electronic information channels.
While I really enjoy a novel structured as interlinked stories, with The Imperfectionists Rachman has not managed to hit the dizzying heights of Colum McCann’s Let The Great World Spin or David Mitchell’s The Cloud Atlas. Having said that, the latter titles are pinnacles of the use of this construct and a difficult benchmark to aspire to.
The wonderful humour used throughout only heightens the sense of tragedy that pervades this novel. Misadventure, things left unsaid, opportunities lost… In The Imperfectionists Tom Rachman has written a very personal and intelligent story that contains something for everyone to identify with.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
Genre: Drama, Literature, Romance
- Tom Rachman talks with DGTV about how his personal experiences as a journalist formed the basis of his fictional debut