Book of the Week: THE IMPERFECTIONISTS by Tom Rachman

Set in Rome, Tom Rachman’s riveting novel explores life inside, and outside, the newsroom

Do you really know the people you work with, day in and out?

This bittersweet novel, by Canadian author Tom Rachman, explores the professional and personal lives (and the stark contrast that often exists between the two) of the reporters, editors and executives at a quirky international English-language newspaper in Rome, as they try to keep their publication afloat.

In a series of interlinked stories, we follow the ups and downs of the fictional newspaper’s ‘imperfect’ staff including Kathleen, the tough editor-in-chief who confronts her husband’s infidelity and, in return, considers engaging in a ‘free affair’ of her own; Arthur, the lazy obituary writer who is transformed by personal tragedy; Abbey, the no-nonsense financial officer who is seduced by the copy editor she’d fired; the newspaper’s heir and publisher, Oliver, a loner whose only concern in life is for his prized basset hound, Schopenhauer; a Middle East stringer wandering the streets of Cairo for terrorists to interview; and a veteran, past-his-prime Paris reporter who takes desperate measures for his next byline.

Interwoven into this spirited narrative is the story of the newspaper’s improbable founding 50 years earlier by an enigmatic millionaire with a private agenda. Alternately humourous and heart wrenching, The Imperfectionists gives an inside view of a newsroom dealing with the decline — and the faded glories — of print news in the age of the Internet.