The Short Take:
What a delight this was! Rachman uses tiny slices from his characters’ lives to reveal everything about them in this highly readable and thoroughly enjoyable book. Every character has some involvement with an international, English-language newspaper headquartered in Rome. Set in the modern day, small overlaps and an interspersed newspaper history draw everything together.
By telling the story of a declining newspaper through individual — and highly personal — stories, Rachman achieves something far more fascinating and engaging than a straight narrative. While each of his vignettes keeps a tight focus, they deliver deep insights into the subject’s personality. You also get a feel for the newspaper’s personality as well: Between each “story” are short sections that trace its history.
I will warn you that you might find the very first story depressing. Not to worry! That is not the tone of the book (okay, maybe young newspaper journalists will find the whole thing depressing). Every story evokes different emotions. One had a surprise end that knocked my socks off. Another left me misty-eyed with happiness.
I am so glad I bought this book.
A Little Plot:
Well, this is difficult. The personal stories pretty much stand on their own, though a minor player in one story may later have a tale of his/her own. The interspersed newspaper history helps you understand the relationships between the different characters as well as their relationship with the newspaper.
This book is more about understanding the characters — what drives them, worries them, etc. — than it is any particular plot. Each story obeys all the plot rules in and of itself. Putting them all together like this just makes the whole experience more rewarding.
For more about Tom Rachman has his debut novel, click here.