The Imperfectionists: Book Review by Asha Seth

#MyThoughts: Sometimes, it’s good too take a chance with books and authors unheard of.

As a reader, I’m quite eccentric. If I’m trying an author for the first time, I check out their quotes. Well, and if the quotes stick with me, I’m likely to stick with the author. And then there are such quotes that make so much sense.

“You know, there’s that silly saying ‘We’re born alone and we die alone’ -it’s nonsense. We’re surrounded at birth and surrounded at death. It is in between that we’re alone.”

the imperfectionists
Image Credit: Goodreads

Now the review.

Many times, simple yet not-so-perfect situations take most of our time and energy in wanting to put things right. This exactly is the premise of Tom Rachman’s – The Imperfectionists.

Set in Rome, Italy, The Imperfectionists is about the inter-connected lives of the staff of an International newspaper which is on the brink of a shutdown.

With this, begins the almost tiresome yet captivating, dull yet witty, short stories on the personal lives of the journalists of this newspaper firm.

The Founder Cyrus Ott. rests the responsibility of running the firm on his grandson, Oliver’s shoulders. Oliver’s only concern in life is for his basset hound, Schopenhauer.

The correspondent Llyod Burko who has married 4 times and is struggling to make a living which his articles are clearly not capable of.  He is on the verge of betraying his son, the only one of his kids who hasn’t left him.

Arthur Gopal, an obituary writer who dotes on his daughter Pickle. He hates his job and yet when asked to travel to Switzerland to interview a dying author, he agrees hoping to find answers to questions on his life.

Herman Cohen is the corrections editor, a grammar nazi who is obsessed with having a style guide in place. A desperate-to-be-in-relationship business writer Benjamin Hardy who cares in the least that her Irish boyfriend along with his friends is stealing from her.

The copy editor Ruby Zaga is fearing that she’s going to be fired from her job but heaves a sigh of relief when she isn’t. She is stalking a man who had once kissed her but isn’t keen on a relationship with her. A forlorn 40-something seeking love in the wrong places.

The life of these journalists is spiraling down just like the fate of the newspaper they are working for. They know their talents are not enough to sustain life’s severity, let alone their job requirements. Hoping for some change in their loneliness, seeking companionship and a meaningful existence is what they are all after. Intricately woven tragicomic elements make The Imperfectionists more than an average novel.

The Imperfectionists is a novel that leaves you feeling sorry for the employees of the publication house.  The reader can’t help but get hooked to their plightful states, seeking an end to their daily turmoil. It keeps getting sadder and grim that you don’t want to read another page and yet you find yourself turning pages just so you know what happens in the end, which is quite tragic by the way. It is humorous and heart-breaking, all at once. And then there’s this timeless piece:

“It occurs to me that I’ve been wrong about something: I always assumed that age and experience weather you, make you more resilient. But that’s not true. It’s the opposite.”

Tom Rachman has himself been a journalist and knows the industry in and out. The way he has squeezed his observances and experience of the industry in the stories is simply brilliant. For a debut, his work is truly commendable! But I wouldn’t refrain from stressing that you need to read the book twice to really get what Rachman wants to say.

If you happen to read ‘The Imperfectionists‘ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.

©The Musing Quill

31 thoughts on “The Imperfectionists: Book Review by Asha Seth

Add yours

  1. Sounds interesting, newspapers have lost not only their readers but also a lot of respect in the past decade, it is intriguing to see a bit more into that world and what it is really like.


  2. A Thoughtful post. I agree with this quote –
    “You know, there’s that silly saying ‘We’re born alone and we die alone’ -it’s nonsense. We’re surrounded at birth and surrounded at death. It is in between that we’re alone.”


  3. That’s a wonderful review ….it takes me in the flashback 4 years ago …when one of my friends Jijina had finished reading this book and handed over it to me after 10th grade exams.

    Each chapter is so beautifully wirtten that it could stand alone as a memorable short story. Slowly, the separate strands become entwined… Funny, poignant, occasionally breathtaking.”

    Each of the 11 short stories could be read and enjoyed separately as each was filled with very interesting characters, in different circumstances, different eccentricities, different voices and almost different milieus.

    I saw myself in Lloyd Burko. My heart bled for Arthur Gopal’s loss then cheered him for his triumph towards the end.

    I saw myself prodding Hardy Benjamin to follow her heart, ”Go girl!” and guessing if there was a gay undertone in Herman Cohen’s friendship with Jimmy.

    I admired the tenacity of Kathleen Solson, despised the naivety of Winston Cheung and hated the guts of Rich Snyder.

    I saw the flight of my many near-old maid friends in Ruby Zaga ahnd at the same time thought of how many people think that their families and friends who live overseas are all living rich and happy lives.


    1. I had never heard about it myself and had my reservations. But thankfully I have a way of my own that makes me decide on books to take or otherwise. You may try that too. Who knows! 🙂


  4. One more addition to my to-read list. 🙂 I like what you say about the quotes. I agree that the writer’s style of expressing certain (usually, otherwise mundane or unthought of) things does leave an impact.


    1. Yes, an apt portrayal of mirths and miseries of mankind in myriad situations. The fates they are so intent on changing truly shows how we protest and then promise ourselves things will be just fine. It’s got much than what meets the eye. Give it a try.


“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ― James A. Michener

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