The Globe and Mail called The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, universally beloved by just about everyone and on numerous "best of" lists for 2010, "note perfect." And there are elements of the book that I would agree with this praise, but there are also problems, especially with the female characters. They definitely could have been more well rounded and less like caricatures, but on the whole, it's an especially readable book.
I finished the novel the first day that I landed in the hospital. It was unfortunate that I was reading the book a little under duress, maybe that's clouded my judgement. On the whole, I agree that it is a sharp, intriguing, intelligent look at the demise of an English-language newspaper publishing out of Italy. The idea of media, in general, throughout the book provides and interesting backdrop -- newspapers are failing all around the world, trying to figure out how to stay solvent, and the idea that news is no longer about a perspective, but rather ratings and sensationalism (Glenn Beck, COME ON), The Imperfectionists is a timely book. My two favourite characters, the managing editor (and forgive me, I no longer have my copy; my RRHB gave it to the resident at the hospital because she loved to read and was going to Africa to practice medicine the next week) whose love affair fell down in flames (because all of the women in this book are truly incapable of grown-up love, don't you find?) but who knows the business, who is the business, inside and out,
My least favourite character, the female copy-editor who almost defines the word "spinster" as it was meant fifty years ago, truly disappointed me. But I'm not sure if Rachman meant for any of the characters to be completely whole. Perhaps they echo the disintegration of their paper -- struggling to find the right pause to end a sentence that isn't quite complete. Chasing a story that will never materialize in a world that cares more about how many times Lindsey Lohan can end up in jail or rehab. The social commentary and the utter inability of the latter generations to save the paper, how the corporation that owns the media simply shuts it down, and how new media essentially contributes to its demise, well, these are stories we (I) live every day having worked in both television and magazines before landing in the relatively stable (don't believe what you read) world of book publishing.
It's a quick read, and an engrossing one. Rachman has a talent for characters and for pulling together what are essentially short stories wrapped within the larger tale of the end of the paper. What starts off as a labour of love ends up an empty room, papers left of the floor, staff pilfering computer equipment, when I read that, it truly reminded me of the last days of Saturday Night magazine in Toronto, when the National Post took the magazine over, and I lost my truly awful job. In that moment, I was an incomplete, unhappy character, I could have easily been one of the women in this book, but luckily, I've got some pluck, some spunk, and maybe that's what they were missing. I mean, truly, letting the dead beat butthead into your life just because you're too "old" to find anyone else. I HATE that storyline. I am so sick of female characters like that...but I am rambling. Trying to get more than one sentence down before my RRBB hollers out for something.