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If I get no more surprises, this book will win the The Good Surprise of 2012 award. I’ve noticed lately that, when it comes to books, I hardly get surprised. I usually know pretty much what to expect, which is a bit sad since it may mean I’m not risking enough, or maybe it just means I know my tastes very well.

Either way, extra brownie points to The Imperfectionists, a book that had been on my radar because of the nice cover (more than for the raving reviews), but that I only picked up because of my bookclub (bless them).

Everyone seemed to like it, but no one loved it as enthusiastically as I did. This group of short-stories about people working in an English-language Rome-base daily newspaper really hit a chord with me. They are all connected, just enough for the book to have a conducting line but not enough for it to feel like a novel.

It’s a small book, but there’s a lot in the 11 different stories/people. Each had their different quirks, annoyances and endearing qualities: the faithful reader who insists in finishing every old edition of the newspaper before moving to the next one, leaving her trapped in the past, or the corrections editor who publishes an in-house newsletter called “Why?” where he names and shames the journalist’s worst mistakes:

literally: This word should be deleted. All too often, actions described as “literally” did not happen at all. As in, “He literally jumped out of his skin.” No, he did not. Though if he literally had, I’d suggest raising the element and proposing the piece for page one. Inserting “literally” willy-nilly reinforces the notion that breathless nitwits lurk within this newsroom. Eliminate on sight — the usage, not the nitwits. The nitwits are to be captured.

Parallel to these lives we follow the birth, growth, decline and death of a newspaper that could be one of so many closing down around us. One of the most interesting debates during bookclub was whether if, considering how credible the characters were, any other professional sector would be able to gather in one single office such a group of eccentric, lonely, brilliant, psychotic personalities.

One thing I need in my short-stories is a good ending, the type that makes me re-read the last paragraphs, and Rachman delivered (for those of you who’ve read it: Abby and Ruby’s were a bit of punch in the stomach). It’s a wonderful first novel, with an unexpected mix of humor (“If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power”) and tragedy (“Our worst fear isn’t the end of life but the end of memories.”). I’m glad that it met with general praise and recognition and look forward to seeing what he delivers next.

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Other thoughts: Avid Reader’s MusingsReading MattersThe Literary StewLeeswammesRhapsody in Books, Chamber Four, Beth Fish Reads, The Captive Reader,  Care’s Online Book Club, The Mookse and the Gripes, A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook, Literary License, When Pen Meets Paper,  with hidden noise, A Good Stopping Point, Fizzy Thoughts, The Art of Reading (yours?)

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