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Book Review: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Highlights of the book: Themes, issues, and characterization
(Warning: May contain spoilers)
Some issues and themes worth noting in this book are the balance between work and personal life, as well as the attempt to maintain professionalism in the workplace. As correspondents scramble to meet deadlines, there’s the question of a 50-year-old publication staying afloat in the dot com era.
I liked that this was coming from a staff who runs an international newspaper. The issues touched upon were meaningful and that these are the stories of ordinary people. Instead of the bulk of it being just one perspective, it’s a breakdown of different characters and their relevance to their workplace. Tom Rachman gives a varied voice and style to the various characters, even just the supporting ones. Looks like this is a young author to watch out for.
The themes that the book touches on are love and family life, career and security and faithfulness or loyalty. Each chapter in the book gives an insight into the life of each employee, and in between there is the story behind the international newspaper, about how it started, but the true reason why it was founded is not revealed until the last two chapters. What goes on beyond the professional surface is more exciting compared to how each correspondent and editor deals in the workplace.
In terms of questions, enter the battle of the printed word and the daily circulation of an international newspaper versus digital content that can be downloaded and shared in seconds. Usually, the thin line is crossed between the relevance and truth of news reporting versus sensational stories. Here, the rich stories and challenges of being in the journalism profession are told. I can also personally relate to this site because of my commitment to the printed word, having been a screenwriter and editor in the past.
The character I could really relate to is Kathleen, the editor-in-chief of the paper, because I kind of admire her drive and her ambition, being a tough woman in an otherwise male-dominated workplace, and the way she controls facts to protect the newspaper’s credibility. The obituary writer also has quite a transformation as he transforms from a lazy but dedicated father to a hard-working editor but unfocused husband.
I also like that each chapter is titled with newspaper headlines that parallel each character’s story and experiences – this is a new way to introduce memorable characters to the reader.
Who could enjoy the book
This book is for people who are curious about what it means to be a print journalist in the middle of a dot com era, facing journalists from all over the world, and how an international print newspaper can survive. Also, if you are curious about how the balance between personal life and work life is achieved or rather in constant turmoil, then this book is for you.
About the author
People still write good books.
This is what Discovery said about Tom Rachman, and he is considered one of the best discoveries of 2010, including Andrew Garfield.
Tom Rachman was born in 1974 in London, but grew up in Vancouver. He studied cinema at the University of Toronto and completed a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University in New York. From 1998, he worked as an editor at The Associated Press’s foreign affairs desk in New York, then did a stint as a correspondent in India and Sri Lanka before returning to New York. He was sent to Rome in 2002 as an AP correspondent, where his assignments took him to Japan, South Korea, Egypt and Turkey. He began as a part-time editor in 2006 at the International Herald Tribune in Paris to support himself while writing fiction. He currently lives in London and is working on his second novel.
What other people are saying about the book
It seems I’m not the only one who is quite happy with this book. Other book groups have shared their reactions, and most of them are positive, although those who are fascinated by the life of journalism receive high praise most of all.
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