Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Imperfectionists Review

I resisted reading this book for a while because I knew that each chapter was about a separate character. I'm all for multi-POV books but one chapter per character? How could I ever get to know them? I'm not a big fan of short stories for that very reason. But anyway, I had it on my kindle and was looking for something contemporary and realistic after finishing The Master of Heathcrest Hall and I'd been eyeing a paperback copy of it on my co-worker's desk, thinking I should read it for a while.

I'm glad I did. The Imperfectionists follows members of the staff of an international newspaper based in Italy. Each chapter focuses on a different person, but not much is mentioned of their actual work at the paper. It's more about their personal lives. Characters appear in the background of other chapters so you sort of follow them, but I found that I wasn't left with too many questions at the end. One person's daughter died inexplicably so I wanted to know more about that and another character slides in a minor reference to having been sexually abused but again, it's so quick that while it gives you some insight into his persona, it's never fully explored.

Most of the chapters take place in Rome, but one is in Egypt, featuring a young guy who is trying to be a reporter for the paper and a ridiculous journalist who invades his life, and one takes place on the place to Atlanta, where the corporation that owns the newspaper is located. The story of the (never named) paper's founding is told in bits and pieces after each chapter, starting with an American named Cyrus Ott who comes to Rome in the 1950s to start the paper for reasons that are hinted at but not completely revealed until the end of the book. The short italicized history of the paper goes from that point in time to the present, highlighting specific people and situations behind the periodical's history, which is interesting.

The snapshots of each character's story are varied. Some of the characters are total losers (I'm looking at you, Ruby Zaga). Others are dealing with loss of some kind or another, from death to lost love. The book starts with Lloyd Burko, an aging reporter in Paris, who is desperately trying to hold onto his heyday at a writer. Another fascinating character was Ornella, a long time reader who has some form of obsessive compulsive disorder: she will only read the paper in order, so while the book takes place in 2007, she is stuck in 1994.

The Imperfectionists isn't long but it's packed with interesting characters and a newspaper past its prime, dying slowly in the days of instant news via the internet and TV. It's about people holding onto their pasts and presents and other people learning to let go. I really enjoyed it, far more than I thought I would. It goes quickly, but in no way lacks depth. It's definitely worth the read.

Here's the NY Times Review, which goes into more specifics about the characters that I did here.

Buy it at amazon and barnes and noble.

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