Thursday, September 01, 2011

Guest Post- Judi Witzig's review of The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

(Note from John: Judi is a Canadian Book Challenge participant who has not yet set up a blog for reviews. I am happily posting her review of her challenge reads here in the meantime.)

[Note to fellow readers – I believe this to be an eligible entry as Tom Rachman (like Malcolm Gladwell) grew up in Canada and graduated from the University of Toronto.]

The Imperfectionists follows the twists and turns of the various lives of journalists and the publisher of an English language newspaper in Rome. The individual stories provide personal connections into both the lives of the journalists as well as the struggles of the newspaper. Each chapter, titled as a newspaper column headline, expands the reader’s understanding of the contributing journalist or staff person, as well as the connections among the various contributing authors. Initially I was at sea with the connections or how these individuals hung together, but by the third chapter, I was fully enmeshed in the story.

This is a book of individual loves, desires and struggles as lives are lived. Whether it is the disintegrating marriage of Lloyd the newspaper’s Paris stringer and his wife Eileen, or the phoenix-like rise of the obituary writer Arthur Gopal whose life takes new directions and his strengths as a writer and the master of the newspaper office politics grow after the unexpected death of his daughter; each character adds to the reader’s overall awareness of the challenges of publishing a daily newspaper over the course of decades. The individual romances of Hardy Benjamin the business writer, Ruby Zaga the copy editor and Abbey Pinnola the Chief Financial Officer of the paper intertwine around each other and the writing of the newspapers. Each character comes surprisingly fully to life. Tom Rachman has well captured the angst of love, loveless-ness, and usury that can accompany relationships and sex these days. The chapters of publishers’ loves and losses help to round out the picture both of the newspaper and the journalists.

I enjoyed the book and cannot help but reiterate adjectives from various international book reviews which call it “spectacular, magnificent and beguiling. “ My confusion of where the story was going after the first two chapters fell away as the bigger picture became more apparent. Reading this book was akin to dipping into the moving current of a river, coming to different bends, rocks and snags along the way - well written, and well enjoyed.

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