The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman


Well, to be honest, I had a hard time classifying this book. I think it would be liked by a wide range of people. Just keep reading and see if anything sparks your interest.

The Book:

I just found a treasure!

For years now, I have been trying to write short stories. I have a bit of a collection under my belt now, but I don’t really love any of them.  It is completely logical, because I don’t like short stories. I would rather read a nice long novel and fall into love (or hate) while I become entwined in the characters. Short stories are just too brief to get to know someone. But, the short stories in this collection by Tom Rachman are delightfully short. Every one of them!

Rachman was shortlisted for the Giller Prize this year for The Imperfectionists. This book was easy to read and reminded me of a good BBC miniseries. It is about the last dying days of an English language newspaper set up in Rome. After being in print publication for decades, the newspaper is shutting down.  Each chapter is about a person involved in some way with the paper. Each chapter is also a different narrative and could stand alone as an individual short story. The book feels real. The plot is held together well and is clear and cohesive. It is lighthearted and soft, yet in the same moment I felt as close and intimate with the cast of characters as if I’d spent weeks reading the book (instead of two days). Each of the character’s feelings and their human drama were palpable and beautifully realized. Rachman could teach me a thing or two about character building! Wowzers!

This is Tom Rachman’s first book, although he has been a journalist for years. He brought to life a cast of characters using only a few thousand words for each, this fact immensely impressed me. Also, that one week after finishing the book, I can still recall very clearly almost all of the people in the novel and many of their idiosyncrasies.  Did I mention that I was impressed with Rachman’s talent?

There were moments while deep in the prose, that struck me as simple and profound at the same time.  He wrote one woman in an airplane meeting a potential love interest, and he writes her so well I swear he must have asked a woman exactly what goes through her mind. He nailed it right down to that feeling of being in that space. I am looking forward to reading his next work.

This book would make a great Christmas gift for someone who likes fiction, but not long fiction. It is well written and a quick read, but it is woven with non-fiction newspaper headlines from 2008.  Here is the link on Amazon!

I have a confession to make as well. Another reason I LOVED this book is because of this:

Hayden's Brooding Intensity
Tom Rachman's Brooding Intensity

This is a picture of Hayden (left) beside the author of The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman. I think they look a lot alike. Every time I glanced upon the back of the novel, I would see those big bedroom eyes and think of Hayden, who I adore.

And so, I leave you with Barely Friends, my favorite song from Hayden’s 2008 album In Field and Town, because I am a shameless Hayden promoter.


3 thoughts on “The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman”

  1. gosh.. haha… indeed i can appreciate what you say. i think i must read this book as i happen to adore reading short stories for the simplicity and to the point nature that they can bring.

    also i think i will pull out a few of my hayden albums again

  2. Oooo– I’ll definitely need to check this one out– I have similar feelings about short stories, although I do find I pay better attention to the details in short stories because I assume they matter more than in a novel. (That’s probably a total assumption on my part). If you loved the way he weaved short stories into a bigger story you should definitely read “Blood-letting and Other Miraculous Cures” by Vincent Lam… a total winner in my mind. Thanks Elisha!

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