I heard about Tom Rachman’s edgy new novel from a friend. Then I read the review in the NYT Book Review. Then I bought the book. I know of two people who had read the book twice in order to figure it out. So, I decided to take my sweet time reading it. And I did. This novel is not long:precisely 272 pages. It has all the quirky stuff I love. It takes place mostly in Rome. But Europe figures nicely into the story.
Everyone knows by now that the newspaper business is practically a dying breed, at least the print part. So when I heard the story is centered on the making and the demise of an English language newspaper based in Rome, I was all ears and eyes. I dove in head first. But even though the story is stuffed around and inside the actual building of the paper, it’s the people who work for the paper and the family behind the paper who are really the focus.
Such a kettle of characters hasn’t been seen since Jonathon Franzen’s THE CORRECTIONS many years ago. Each chapter hones in on one particular personality. At the end of each chapter in italics is a mini chapter chronicling the owners of the paper through the years; you learn the inside scoop from this add-on.
I felt like I was living vicariously through these unique characters. . Rachman lives in Rome and brings the Tiber and the Streets brilliantly to life. The Italian people are made to seem friendly and smart. And the Americans living here made to feel right at home away from home.
This novel is quite timely. Very much so. I enjoyed going behind the scenes and seeing how the times change the business.
This writing format is not for everyone. But, I found it refreshing. I knew what I was getting into and prepared in advance. I paid attention so that when a character would appear from an earlier chapter, I would spy them and tie them in. At the end they all come together well, but they really begin meshing early on.
I think this book will be a sleeper. I remember OLIVE KITTERIDGE from a short time ago. This is the same format. I am happy to have found Tom Rachman and wonder what on earth he will follow this up with.