I enjoyed the portraits of these quirky characters who had only one thing in common: the international newspaper in Rome that they worked at (or in one case, read). The character sketches are written in the present, and the story of the newspaper itself, beginning with its founding, is told in italics in between the chapters. This switch in time was a little disconcerting at first, probably because I tend to skip subheads (which included the date, the big clue that we were changing time periods) and just start reading the chapters. I found the story of the paper and its founding family much less compelling than that of the reporters, editors, and other employees. My favorite chapter was the one about the copy editor, Herman, and The Bible, which is the paper's style guide. As a former newspaper reporter and current magazine editor, I had to laugh out loud at many parts of this chapter, including his diatribe about the word "literally."
Although I typically don't like short stories disguised as a novel, these were somewhat linked and kept moving the story forward. I found myself liking it, despite my usual preference for one continuous story over short character portraits. It was an amusing read.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (The Dial Press, 2010)
My rating: 3 stars