Customer Reviews for

The Imperfectionists

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

Compelling Ensemble

WKRP in Cincinnati. It was a sitcom in the early 80s, I think? Without disparaging this work of literary fiction, I was somewhat reminded of that goofy little show. It was set in a radio station, but made memorable by the collective weirdness of every character in th...
WKRP in Cincinnati. It was a sitcom in the early 80s, I think? Without disparaging this work of literary fiction, I was somewhat reminded of that goofy little show. It was set in a radio station, but made memorable by the collective weirdness of every character in the ensemble cast. Each episode seemed to focus on one person's problem, usually humorous, and filled out with the other characters who rotated in significance per the episode.


In The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, there is a similar layout to the novel. Instead of a radio station, it's a daily newspaper in Rome, with mostly expats running the show. Often funny, sometimes bleak, the book moves along and introduces you to each character separately then shows them as part of the whole. No sight gags or corny humor like in WKRP, but a feeling of tolerable camaraderie between people thrown together and not especially liking it.

Richman doesn't use any cliches: there's no "Devil Wears Prada" evil boss, and even the most insignificant of copy editors has a life outside the newsroom that is a story in itself. That's why the novel is so fascinating. Without one single main protagonist, much more is in play that makes the story move. There's the obnoxious Snyder, who constantly travels to different war zones seeking a story, but remains oblivious to human tragedy. He decides that knowing different languages interferes with his objectivity, so all sources must speak English. Business editor Hardy, an intelligent female reporter who is so desperate for a companion that she finds a relationship with the loser Rory who robbed her apartment. Lloyd, who has no relationship with any of his children, and really nothing in his life of value, resorts to falsifying stories just to make a little money. And Dave, who enacts the perfect revenge on the accountant who fired him. Then there's the spell-check program that renames an important historical character "Sadism Hussein."

Finally, there's the love letter Ott wrote, never seen by his beloved: "I built and I built-heaven knows that I have done that well. Those skyscrapers, full of tenants, floor after floor, and not a single room containing you."

In all, Rachman creates these characters amid the underlying theme of a newspaper trying to make money in the age of the Internet. He contrasts the tactile importance a newspaper used to have with the overload of information online that can't even be grasped. Instead of lecturing about this relevant information, he shows how the newspaper changes in content over three generations of owners-the Ott family. This is a fun read, full of laughs but tender and meaningful too.

posted by SAHARATEA on August 23, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

14 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

Highly NOT recommended--don't check it out (unless from a library)

Absolutely hated this book. Hated every moment I spent reading it. Unfortunately, I hadn't fully decided that I hated it until I was about half way thru so I decided I may as well finish it. The writing was okay; it was well-written, competent. What I disliked about the...
Absolutely hated this book. Hated every moment I spent reading it. Unfortunately, I hadn't fully decided that I hated it until I was about half way thru so I decided I may as well finish it. The writing was okay; it was well-written, competent. What I disliked about the book was the format--each character has a separate chapter and all characters are connected by their having worked at the newspaper in Rome (which I don't think is ever given a name). Although I wasn't crazy about that format, it could have worked for me if not for the fact that every chapter followed basically the same format: every character is revealed in his/her personal life to be (almost always) a pathetic, disagreeable, unlikeable, unsympathetic person. Without fail. And while this person is revealed to have the most amazing character flaws, the "shock" ending or final reveal is always in the last few paragraphs. It was so formulaic that I came to expect this pattern: a) the character being focused on each chapter is probably some kind of jerk or pathetic loser and his/her flaw will be revealed in less than four pages, b)the last one or two paragraphs will reveal a final twist or revelation that you probably shouldn't see coming (although if you have half a brain and pay attention to the book, you should really expect it), and c)every revelation/twist is going to be something bad. I just hated this book. I don't see how writing a book that explores (in almost every chapter) the character flaws of these characters and is negative throughout makes this book "spectacular," "magnificent," or "beguiling." These are one-word reviews quoted on the cover of the paperback copy of this book I unfortunately spent my money on. This book is not all that interesting, the people are not so fascinating because Rachman doesn't give the reader enough time to know the characters--we just get brief, mostly disagreeable slices of their lives. Perhaps you have to be a journalist or be connected with the newspaper business in some way to enjoy and appreciate this book. I absolutely hated it and don't recommend it to anyone.

posted by KrisPA on February 6, 2011

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Page 2 of 26
  • Posted April 8, 2011

    Just Okay

    As an avid reader, I was hoping for a little more from the story line. Unfortunately for me, this book was a bit of a disappointment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A Story in Pieces

    What I liked most about Tom Rachman's debut novel "The Imperfectionists" is that it is like a puzzle that you have to put together in your head to get the full picture. Set against the backdrop of a struggling news office, the story is really about the lives of the staff - each with their own humor and heartache. A top notch book that really makes you think about the human condition.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2011

    Clever. Liked it 3+ stars

    Good, easy read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2011

    Thought provoking

    I thought this book was great, it was thought provoking commentary about our world, about personalities, and life in general. But it made me sad, isn't there one person in the book who was happy and wasn't barely slogging through life without a major flaw? I didn't expect a happy ending, but I also didn't expect such sadness. I did like the book, quite a lot. I just don't think my mind was prepared for it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

    Not a perfect read.

    Imperfect in many ways...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2011

    Great book!

    Just finished this book and can't stop thinking about it. Well-written, engaging characters, one of the best books I've read in quite awhile

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2011

    good debut novel

    interesting characters, page turner, engaging writing style

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2010

    Great Read!

    I couldn't put this book down. The characters are fantastic. Each chapter reads like a short story of its own. I highly recommend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2014

    I loved this book.  It was engrossing, concise and creative.  It

    I loved this book.  It was engrossing, concise and creative.  It reminded me of Olive Kittridge, in that each chapter was a seemingly independent perfect short-story, but woven together they are like a novel, telling a complete tale. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2014

    fun easy read

    Good summer read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    F*******

    F********* a*** a??

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  • Posted February 17, 2013

    Plot moved along until the final pages: the ending is a totally

    Plot moved along until the final pages: the ending is a totally gratuitous washout, an unnecessarily cruel kick in the stomach to any loyal reader.

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  • Posted February 17, 2013

    I agree with KrisPA, this book is well written, but every chapte

    I agree with KrisPA, this book is well written, but every chapter follows the same formula for each character.  I hated this book because I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever does except that the characters are miserable and they each find a way to screw another one over. It might have even worked as specific personalities dissected under a microscope, but all the personalities were the same.  If interested, get it from the library.  Otherwise it is a total waste of money.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2012

    Amazing!

    Such a great read!! Too bad it's his only book. I wish it were 500 characters to read about, that how entertaining it was.

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  • Posted November 2, 2012

    It was okay...not my favorite but had its moments

    There were some great stories within the book but I felt a bit disaapointed in how the author would abandon each mini story and move on to the next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    Imperfectionists

    This is a novel about the inside workings of an international newspaper like the Herald Tribune.

    In many ways the characters were so petty, it was sad. I had wondered whether there any roman a clef characters like the War Correspondent.

    I read this because my father was an editor at a local newspaper when I was little. Some things never change like the new carpeting that looks cheap a few weeks later in the newsroom. The book captured this as well as the perpetual low pay and money troubles of newspapers.

    I only liked one or two of the characters. The others were petty and pathetic losers. Their ethics were of a sitiational variety. I was almost tempted to not finish the book.

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  • Posted June 9, 2012

    The Imperfectionists is an illuminatingly dark study of humanity

    The Imperfectionists is an illuminatingly dark study of humanity. The interwoven characters are scarred and flawed and forgivable and familiar. We know them as well as we know the frayed edge of a couch pillow that we keep turned just so. Rachman’s portrayal of the characters is first-rate and the plot is fragmented perfectly, but the writing—the writing is pure artistry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    Painful to read.

    The book is well written. The author fully develops his character into a passive distructive force. The paper takes a variety of people who are portrayed as worthless and removes any sense of hope or value from their lives and leaves them in darkness and loneliness. This is a bleak story that only goes down hill. A great story if your weekend plans involve a full blown drinking binge alone.

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  • Posted April 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Perfection In An Imperfect World

    In 1953, the millionaire Cyrus Ott, head of a large corporation with far-flung interests, comes to Rome to make a proposition. His former lover, Betty, now lives in Rome with her husband Leo. Cyrus suggests that he will found a daily newspaper in the city and leave it to Betty and Leo to run it as editors. They agree and the newspaper is founded.

    Tom Rachman's debut novel, The Imperfectionists, follows this newspaper over the next fifty years along with the lives of the many people who make up the work force that creates a daily newspaper. He structures the novel so that each person gets a chapter that shows his life, both at work and at home. Each character ties to the other people at the newspaper, yet each remains separate. This is the way of corporations and most large enterprises. Each individual has their own agenda yet somehow, if lucky, these agendas are chained together to create a complete structure which none could have done alone.

    Along with the short glimpses into individual private lives, Rachman portrays the dying days of the newspaper. This is a fate that seems to be inevitable for most newspapers as readers' expectations are for instant information which they can get on the television news channels and the news on various Internet outlets. There is little time for the leisurely exploration of topics that newspapers were able to create in years past. The Ott corporation forgets about the newspaper in Rome, with few visits or inquiries from the home headquarters, and the newspaper is left to flounder and lose its way.

    Rachman has done an impressive job. His own background is as a journalist and an editor on foreign newspapers, so he knows the territory he writes about. His slice-of-life vignettes are cunningly constructed to shed light on individual lives while typing them together to make a united whole. This book is recommended for readers interested in modern fiction and for those interested in the writing industry.

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  • Posted February 26, 2012

    pretty good, but didn't love it

    although i appreciate the well-woven stories within the book and enjoyed how they are all related, i found parts a bit slow and didn't love the ending.

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