Rachman is a London-born journalist who has worked all over the world and he chose a familiar subject for his debut novel – the newsroom of an English-language paper in Rome.
Each chapter revolves around a different staff member or reader, with many of their stories intersecting and building on previous episodes. At every interval there is a short story about the history of the paper, colouring in some of the background of the main storyline.
It’s a masterful plot structure, deftly done, especially for a first-time novelist. The way the disparate characters and storylines intertwine and relate shows how skilled Rachman is as a storyteller.
The book had been recommended to me by my fiancé, who knew it’s tales of deadline drama in a newsroom would appeal to me, and she was spot on. Although Rachman never stoops as low as cliché or caricature, many of the characters rang true.
All of the characters are sketched out with a deft touch rarely seen in even the best authors, let alone by a first-timer. Rachman’s cast are remarkably realistic and likeable, creating sympathy for the characters and disappointment when things inevitably turn sour for the protagonists.
That’s really my one complaint about the Imperfectionists – it’s unrelentingly depressing. No good deed goes unpunished in Rachman’s world. Characters are craven and selfish. Infidelity is common with everyone ending up alone. Even success comes at a great cost in this world.
Half-way through I was dying for at least one good thing to happen to a character. Some sort of ray of hope, one chance at redemption. Anything! I was desperate for a lifeline, but it never came.
No, Rachman never gives up on his dark outlook, with the final chapter being one of the most heartbreaking.
Despite that, the Imperfectionists is an excellent read that will impress you with its complex structure. Although I was introduced to it because of my occupation as a journalist, I think this book would appeal to anyone. Definitely worth checking out.