I finished The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman as well as The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond last week.
In The Imperfectionists Rachman devotes each chapter to an episodic portrait of a different character. In doing so, the author slowly reveals a timeline and interdependent setting for all of the characters. By the end of the novel the cohesive storyline of the newspaper and its history is fully developed and I was able to look back over what I had already read and marvel at the way Rachman had effortlessly tied all his characters together so smoothly while I wasn’t paying close attention. The background plot centers on a small family owned newspaper agency in Rome and the character portraits are of the owners and staff. Because the characters are introduced so slowly, one chapter at a time, and because those chapters focus exclusively on that character, the reader is never left confused or overwhelmed in the moment trying to untangle characters from one another (a problem I frequently had in character saturating novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude). In addition, the novel can be read as a collection of short stories, each chapter strong enough to stand on its own. It’s really a brilliant way of composing a novel.
The Year of Fog is a suspenseful, well written drama that kept me frantically turning the pages to find out how it was going to end. The characters at the center of the novel are a young woman, her fiancé, and his young daughter from a previous marriage who goes missing in the first chapter. The focus of the novel is the search for the girl and the emotional fallout for the woman and her fiancé as the months drag on. Richmond’s writing style is captivating and her plot pacing was really good during most of the novel. I was a bit disappointed with the last few chapters because I felt she had begun to rush the sequencing of events. It felt like she was trying to quickly wrap the novel up. Despite that, I still recommend readers pick up this novel because the depth of emotions and the intensity of the drama the main character is forced to reckon with are compelling.