I managed to read a lot when I was in Paris.
Yeah, I know. I’m in Paris! Why am I spending time there reading a book that I could read in my own apartment?
Well, it turns out that reading is a great pastime in Paris. People read at cafes, on the metro, waiting in the hour-long lines at the bank.
Fortunately for me, I packed a hand-dandy purse that I absolutely adore because it has a compartment that perfectly holds a normal-sized book.
My book of choice was The Imperfectionistsby Tom Rachman. I picked it up because the title intrigued me and a great many important people seemed to think that it was brilliant. When I found out that it was a story told in short vignettes, I was sold. Like Olive Kitteridge (see my post here), it is a story long enough to satisfy my need for detail, but told in increments short enough to satisfy my hectic lifestyle and distracted mind.
Basically, The Imperfectionists centers on the people who create and work at an international, English-speaking newspaper based in Rome.
Each major player has a story devoted to his/her work, family life, and ultimately, flaws. These are the people of the journalism world who seem to be completely put-together, but whose lives are not as perfect as they seem.
This is by no means a depressing book, so much as an insightful text about the intricacies of life.
One major way that Rachman characterizes each figure is through the food that they consume throughout the story. In almost every vignette, food acts as a gateways for the reader to better understand the character’s psyche.
One woman makes copious amounts of rich food to serve to her boyfriend and friends. but never eats it herself. Instead, she limits herself to hot water and lettuce.
A journalist whose career is on the decline spoons chickpeas out of a can because that is all he can afford.
A writer of obituaries focuses on peanut butter sandwiches to deal with a significant loss.
While this book is more about journalism and the people who are a part of it, the food element is a striking way for us to relate to the characters. I found myself wondering, “What does my food say about me?”