At an international English-language newspaper based in Rome, the staffers are worried about possible layoffs and are hoping the paper can just survive in the current climate of new media. Though they gripe about their work, many of these journalists can count the paper as the most stable thing in their lives: their personal lives are a mess.
Tom Rachman tells his story through the eyes of each individual associated with the paper, from the publisher down to the obituary writer and even a dedicated reader. Each person gets a chapter, in between each of which is inserted a little history of the paper’s creation by a successful American businessman whose motivation for founding and keeping alive an unsuccessful newspaper is unclear throughout most of the book. The financial officer has to choose someone to lay off from among the editorial staff, while she navigates visitations with her children and her ex-husband. Her romantic life has been suffering until a chance meeting gives her hope. The Paris freelancer is losing his wife to another man and is befuddled by his son, and meanwhile can’t get any good stories together to be able to continue earning any money. The young publisher has been assigned by his siblings in Atlanta to take charge of the paper in Rome, but all he does is spend his days with his dog, Schopenhauer, all but ignoring his responsibility to the business.
These interwoven tales of a ragtag group just hanging on to personal and professional survival —and sometimes not even managing that — are at times funny, pitiable and familiar. As a journalist, I found them particularly entertaining because they seemed so spot-on. But anyone outside the newspaper profession should be entertained as well.
Rated: High, for about 20 uses of strong language and other mild and moderate language. Sexual references are mild.