Review | Thursday 28 January 2010
The Imperfectionists is an absolutely winning novel – funny, sad, affecting and sharply observational. It’s set in the office of an English-language international paper, based in Rome, each chapter telling the story of a different employee on the paper, from ambitious workaholic editor-in-chief Kathleen Solson to obituary writer Arthur Gopal, the son of a world-famous journalist whose overriding ambition is to do as little work as possible and rush home to his beloved daughter, Peanut.
Author Tom Rachman has worked in newspapers for many years, including a stint as a foreign correspondent in Rome and another as editor of the International Herald Tribune in Paris. It’s obvious that he knows his subject backwards – he brilliantly renders the politics of the newsroom, and the gripes and obsessions of the journalists, such as corrections editor Herman Cohen’s 18,000-plus entries in his personal ‘Bible’ – aka the paper’s style guide – which he frequently updates with great relish.
The novel is equally compelling on both the work and personal lives of its characters, taking us inside the life of the paper as an organism and the individual lives of those who work there. Highly recommended for news buffs, writers and editors, and anyone who enjoys a good read set against the backdrop of current events.