The Rise & Fall of Great Powers: A Novel

Front Cover
Random House Publishing Group, 2014 - Fiction - 384 pages
35 Reviews
For fans of Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, and Donna Tartt—the brilliant, intricately woven new novel by Tom Rachman, author of The Imperfectionists

NAMED ONE OF KIRKUS REVIEWS' “NEW BOOKS DESTINED TO BECOME CLASSICS”

Following one of the most critically acclaimed fiction debuts in years, New York Times bestselling author Tom Rachman returns with a brilliant, intricately woven novel about a young woman who travels the world to make sense of her puzzling past.

Tooly Zylberberg, the American owner of an isolated bookshop in the Welsh countryside, conducts a life full of reading, but with few human beings. Books are safer than people, who might ask awkward questions about her life. She prefers never to mention the strange events of her youth, which mystify and worry her still.

Taken from home as a girl, Tooly found herself spirited away by a group of seductive outsiders, implicated in capers from Asia to Europe to the United States. But who were her abductors? Why did they take her? What did they really want? There was Humphrey, the curmudgeonly Russian with a passion for reading; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who sowed chaos in her wake; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader whose worldview transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he disappeared.

Years later, Tooly believes she will never understand the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend in New York, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search of answers.

Tom Rachman—an author celebrated for humanity, humor, and wonderful characters—has produced a stunning novel that reveals the tale not just of one woman but of the past quarter-century as well, from the end of the Cold War to the dominance of American empire to the digital revolution of today. Leaping between decades, and from Bangkok to Brooklyn, this is a breathtaking novel about long-buried secrets and how we must choose to make our own place in the world. It will confirm Rachman's reputation as one of the most exciting young writers we have.

Praise for The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

“Ingenious . . . Rachman needs only a few well-drawn characters to fill a large canvas and an impressive swath of history. . . . A set of Venn diagrams of how the book's characters overlap would reveal many secrets about its story. . . . The richness of this book is more apparent once the reading is over. . . . For all its serious points, this book is never too busy for hilarity.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“I found it impossible not to fall in love with shape-shifting Tooly. As an adult, she sports an ironical sense of humor and an attraction to dusty old books. As a child, her straight-faced mirth and wordplay are break-your-heart irresistible. . . . Now beyond resentment or blame, she just wants a usable past and someone worthy of her tender heart. Rachman is certainly such a person, and in these pages, you may discover that you are, too.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Marvelously written . . . highly recommended for its prose and for presenting us with the strangely endearing, surprisingly good-natured, unabashedly weird character named Matilda 'Tooly' Zylberberg.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“[An] engaging and inventive coming-of-age novel.”San Francisco Chronicle

“A bookshop-lover's book, and a beautiful prose-lover's book, and read-it-all-in-one-weekend book.”—The New Republic

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - joyhclark - LibraryThing

I just finished this one last night, and the longer I mull it over, the more I love it. Humphrey is, quite possibly, one of the greatest characters ever written. That's not to take away from the other ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - steven.buechler - LibraryThing

We all consider our lives at one time or another. We think about the highlights and the lows. Then we turn to the future and hope for profound and exciting elements to push us through the future years ... Read full review

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About the author (2014)

Tom Rachman was born in London in 1974 and raised in Vancouver. He attended the University of Toronto and Columbia Journalism School, then worked as a journalist for the Associated Press in New York and Rome and for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. His first novel, The Imperfectionists, was an international bestseller, translated into twenty-five languages. He lives in London.

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