The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman

Four stars, read September 2011.

This is a lovely, heartbreaking book about the life of an international newspaper based in Rome. I love the way it’s written: Each chapter is about a different character, someone related to the paper, and in between each present-day chapter there’s a short one chronicling the history of the paper from its creation. It feels almost like a book of short stories, and each new story stars a character who’s already been mentioned in a previous chapter. I pictured a metal chain, each link reaching into the one before and the one following. It’s surprisingly short for the kind of book it feels like it is, which ended up making sense, but still left me wishing it wasn’t over yet.

Most of the characters left me with a satisfying resolution; a few didn’t. (Interestingly, the one that was left in the least satisfying way is also the one whose story seemed the least realistic, more like a plot from a movie.) I ended up loving most of the characters, though they were by no means all likable. And I loved that although the book follows fifteen or twenty different storylines, touching all the drama of real human lives, it never felt like a soap opera. No over-dramatizing, no deliberate mysterious hint-dropping to string you along. It’s all simple, it all feels real, and that’s why it’s so interesting, because human beings are interesting without needing to be sensationalized. Now, having finished it only half an hour ago, I find myself wanting to start it again.

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