Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Imperfectionists

I have once again been neglecting my blogging duties, but not to worry I have not been neglecting my reading. This just means that I am 4 or 5 reviews behind (yikes, I have even lost count). But I am going to do something unconventional and skip to the last one I read. Not because it is fresh in my mind, but because for what might be the first time ever, I read a book that is causing a bit of a stir right now. Time to jump on the bandwagon before it gets too full.

Just over two weeks ago my book club picked its next read. One of our esteemed members read a review in the Economist and we all agreed to give it a go. The following weekend I found myself in the Edmonton airport having just finished the Cellist of Sarajevo (review to come…). So I stopped by the bookstore and picked up my next book club pick.

I was beyond pleased that the author turned out to be Canadian (of a sort, born in England, raised in Canada, educated here and in the USA, moved abroad). I immediately texted the esteemed book club member to inform him of my pleasant surprise, to which he replied “well, if I’d known that…” but I was not deterred, I purchased the book and off I went reading!

I was even more surprised when that weekend a glowing review of the book appeared in the New York Times Book Review! Jackpot! The review, by Christopher Buckley, praised the book so much- “[the book] is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off”- I was even more eager to plough through it. Days later the movie rights were bought, by none other than Brad Pitt! My oh my! And it is the author’s first novel to boot!

So, with the NY Times on board and Brad Pitt on board, I had to add my review to the pile before it became outdated (like pretty much all my other reviews).

Without further ado, I present Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists. The novel is set largely in Rome and revolves around the staff of a dying English-language newspaper. Each chapter is devoted to a staff member, with their stories all interconnecting. These are spaced with brief chapters on the history of the paper. By the end, you have assembled a puzzle of the newspaper, seeing the newsroom, the foreign correspondents and the readers in one large scene. The individual stories are at times funny, compelling, and often tragic.

The characters include: Arthur Gopal, the obituary writer with a tragic homelife, Herman Cohen, the overzealous corrections editor, Winston Cheung, a young aspiring foreign correspondent, Ornella, the paper’s most eccentric and consistent reader, Oliver Ott, the strange owner obsessed with his basset hound, and many more.

The novel’s strength is in its ability to develop complex characters in such small snippets and to then interweave them into a complete view of the newspaper as a whole. The writing is perfect- easy to read, concise, smart. I won’t gush, the author probably has a big enough ego these days; but suffice to say this book is well worth the read (and maybe even all the fuss it’s getting).

To tempt you with what I have read and not blogged about:

George and Rue- Arthur C. Clarke
Apples to Oysters- Margaret Webb
Cellist of Sarajevo- Steven Galloway
Currently reading: Beatrice and Virgil- Yann Martel

- Katy