This Is Not a Novel

I recently read The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (another book club selection).  I greatly enjoyed the book, which has generally been critically acclaimed.  It has some exquisite character portrayals, some terrific lines (I particularly liked one describing someone eating his soup as if he were searching for his cufflink ), and the odd interesting situation.  But it is not a novel.  It is a collection of short stories about a bunch of people loosely connected through their place of work, an English-language newspaper published in Rome.  This is the case even though the book is often described as being a novel about the paper itself.  It is not.  Their place of work is largely relevant only in that it provides a setting for a bunch of expats.  The tight deadlines of newspaper publishing combined with declining readership adds some pressure on some of the characters’ work experiences but if it weren’t a newspaper, it could have easily been some other place of business.  This, I think, is a good thing.  I for one am not particularly interested in a book where the protagonist is a newspaper or, really, any inanimate object.  What is interesting about The Imperfectionists not being a novel is that it says it’s a novel right on the cover.  And if there were any doubt, Amazon (and I am sure other sites) has it listed as The Imperfectionists: A Novel.  I was happily duped but duped nonetheless.  From now on, I will look with greater on suspicion upon books where the publisher feels the need to emphasize what I would otherwise have taken for granted.

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