Saturday, March 7, 2015

Completed: The Imperfectionists

Dear Jenny,

I finished this book in February and it's already March! Dangit -- already I'm slipppping. Grr. Oh, well. I'm here now.

Well, my judgment-by-font totally paid off, cause I really enjoyed this book. But here's my problem: I liked it so much, I burned through it. So now I'm all, "Wait, what happened?" Fortunately, I did mark some pages, so lemme flip on through and see what I wanted to tell you... ah, yes.

The structure is very interesting -- the book covers the 50+ year story of a Rome-based newspaper by intertwining the history of the paper with seemingly disparate accounts from present-day people who are related to the paper in some way.

Ugh. I'm not doing a great job of describing this. I feel like I need to make a diagram. Let me try again. Basically, each chapter tells a short story about a totally different current-day character who is somehow related to the paper. Interspersed between those chapters is the history of the paper from its founding in 1953 right up to 2007. We never get any of the current-day characters twice, but we sometimes see them from someone else's perspective in another story. So two things happen as you read:
  1. You slowly put together how the current-day characters are related ("Oh -- that's the best friend from that other story!")
  2. You get the backstory that catches up to the current-day characters, so they come into play in the chronological story as you get there.
At first, I thought this would be annoying, because the current-day stories are so disjointed that it's basically a collection of short stories (some of them are kind of far away from the paper -- one is about a reader of the paper) (Although she does turn out to be also tangentially related to the paper itself...) (And her story is pretty nutso and really enjoyable) and because we never hear from that same character's perspective again, it's kind of difficult to really get into those characters.

Buuuut...  the chronological history-telling that is interwoven between those stories and is zooming from the past through on to today ends up bringing everything together as the story goes on. There is some seriously good story-weaving magic going on with this book.

Having said all of that... the paper's story itself is fine, but not terribly memorable (all I've got is "It's a paper in Rome.") Many of the characters are interesting, but I didn't get super-attached (I wished I could have heard more from some of them). However, that gorgeous story-telling structure was enough to keep me interested and plowing through it.

A few of the stories have a sort of "No WAY!" twist ending that caused me to either try to predict a crazy ending for the others *or* be disappointed when the stories were super-straight.  It feels a little like the author thought of the "twist" stories first, and then had to fill in the rest to make a full book. But it's forgivable because of the structure and the characters. Writing this, I want to re-read it to see more connections that I probably missed the first time.

I've been intentionally not spoiler-y because it's a book I would recommend, I think you would enjoy, and I know you would burn right through. So if you're interested in it, I'll lend it to you (maybe during the summer, when you might have some time to read!) If you're not, ask me some questions and I'll spoil away in the comments. Heh.


1 comment:

  1. I just love that a book you picked up for the font ended up being a book you loved! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it, and it does sound like I would also like it, so don't spoil it.

    I have a real fondness for some of the shenanigans of plotting that you describe here. Put it on a pile to give me at some point!