I don't recall reading such a meticulous, honest and riveting fiction novel in a long time. You can tell by the earnest avoidance of cliché, the sharp turns in narrative and the natural dialogue that the author (and likely the editor as well) doted lovingly over every word and phrase. In a sea of dumbing down, this is a very intelligent, perceptive look into the collective psyche of a group of disparate colleagues thrust together not by choice but by career and geographical circumstance.

Apparently the majority of media reviews have been so glowing that some might have approached The Imperfectionists with unrealistic expectations. Or perhaps judged Tom Rachman by his age rather than his skill. Yes, it's a dark look into some very messed up people, but there's hardly a note that seems false. The Ruby Zaga section is probably the most heartrending, yet like American Graffiti, we catch a parting glimpse of her in the epilogue that...well, I won't spoil it.

The most outrageous section concerns the greenhorn being buffaloed by the veteran grandstanding headline-grabber. It veers the furthest from realism in its absurdly comedic sitautions, yet it probably the most true to life, ironically, and perhaps most directly drawn from Rachman's life observations.

It is no coincidence that both Rachman's parents are psycholigists because he has a razor sharp focus on personalities, conceits and foibles. The section about the lady who reads compulsively is practically an OCD case study, and very real at that. Strong powers of observation, indeed.

According to Entertainment Weekly, this book has been optioned by Brad Pitt's company. I can see him playing the fired editor on the plane, but I really think this would make a better long format TV series than a one-shot movie. And any film adaptation is going to lose the characters' thoughts so generously shared by Rachman.

The setting is Rome in a newsgathering industry, but it's a story about people. Rome is a character, a place each character sees (or uses) differently. And the newspaper is almost a metaphor for unescapable change in a city that is thought to be enternal. An unforgettable read.

(The Imperfectionists contains mature subject matter and language, but far less, surprisingly, than many current novels and films.)

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