I absolutely loved the first two chapters of this book. It had seemingly effortless and engaging writing, witty dialogue, and interesting characters. Unfortunately, my enjoyment started waning as I continued reading. A big part of this was Rachman’s female characters. As others have mentioned, there is a touch of misogyny in their portraits. A recurring theme of the book is the failed personal lives of the people who work on the newspaper that is at the center of the book, but the woman in particular are incredibly needy and mostly unpleasant, which got tiresome pretty quickly. Any one of these women I could have appreciated, but all of them were variations on this basic theme.
Another thing people (including me) had problems with is a particularly cruel act that occurs late in the book. I’m not someone who dismisses a book just because things that upset me happen (on the contrary, I think a good book should upset you to some extent), but in this case I don’t think Rachman earned the right to put this in. It seemed like he used this act as a shortcut to demonstrate the frustration and pettiness that had been reached by employees at the paper, rather than using it to punctuate the situation that should have been revealed through the main action and characters.
Unlike others, I did like the sections between the chapters that dealt with the founding and history of the paper. I thought the final one of these sections provided a nice, ironic counterpoint to the lives of the people revealed through the main chapters. Despite my problems, I still give the book 3 stars for its excellent writing and for some truly touching as well as comedic moments.