The Rise and Fall of Great Powers

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers

A Novel

Book - 2014
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NPR * The Seattle Times * The Globe and Mail * Kirkus Reviews * Daily Mail * The Vancouver Sun

For fans of Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, and Donna Tartt--the brilliant, intricately woven new novel by Tom Rachman, author of The Imperfectionists

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." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"A superb follow-up to 2010's The Imperfectionists . . . ambitious and engaging." -- The Seattle Times
"Engaging and inventive . . . full of wonderfully quirky, deeply flawed, but lovable characters . . . On the spectrum of interesting literary childhoods, Tooly Zylberberg--the protagonist of Tom Rachman's second novel--would rank somewhere in the vicinity of Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"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." --Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"[A] read-it-all-in-one-weekend book." -- The New Republic
"A compelling page-turner . . . intricate, sprawling, and almost Dickensian." -- USA Today
"Rachman's comedic powers drive the story, with grace and wit." --Minneapolis Star Tribune
Publisher: New York : The Dial Press, c2014
ISBN: 9780679643654
Branch Call Number: RACHM
Characteristics: 384 pages


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Jul 07, 2016

Moving back and forth between 3 time periods, we gradually learn the background of the independent Tilly, who we first meet as owner of a bookstore in a small Welsh village. Lots of questions arise as you read about Tilly and what really happened to her…like is her father really her father, or has he kidnapped her. Well laid plot line takes us to the end of the book to be able to put all the pieces in the right place.

Jul 09, 2015

Definite let down afterThe Imperfectionists. No laughs, no wry smiles, no "he really nailed that character/scene didn't he?" Better title for this book would be The Misfits (or is that taken)?
Reminded me of Lolita in spots (re: Humphrey character especially), difficult to get through, boring in spots, nor did it hang together all that well either. Not sure why I finished it tho I kept thinking it'd redeem itself in time- it didn't.

Apr 15, 2015

I wasn't sure if I was going to carry on with this book. I was very confused at first, and then went back and read the chapter headings and realized that I was jumping around in Matilda 'Tooly' Zylberberg's life. Of course if you only see her in 2011. 1988, and 1999 you would be confused too. Tooly is a peculiar kind of person who runs a failing bookstore in Wales and apparently had a vagabond childhood that involved a computer analyst father, a Russian emigre babysitter, a tempestuous woman, and a mysterious wheeler dealer named Venn. Along the way there is also a short affair with an aspiring law student. As I progressed I was pulled in to the story and really hooked. I thought the writing was good and the characters well-drawn considering you only met them in snippets. The author expands the snippets to full accounts so that by the end all becomes clear.

Jan 27, 2015

This novel is somewhat of a mystery, revealed in alternating time periods and locations. It has a slow beginning, good middle, and disappointing, feel-good ending.

josh2112 Dec 12, 2014

I loved this book, in a grey, sad kind of way, highly recommend it, but not if you are already a bit down.
The characters are brilliant and one starts off loving them and then sees the other side, the author does a wonderful job of moving our vision of them from light to dark and then redeeming others. I cried at several points. Then main character is damaged, but arent we all, some in more interesting ways then others, hers was interesting and finally not as tragic as it could have been.

Nov 14, 2014

A great book, my favorite read of 2014.

Nov 13, 2014

Loved Rachman's first novel "The imperfectionists"
However, I found this new novel tough going with all the back and forth of time. Hard to keep track. Hard to care about Tooly.

Although this book has received rave reviews, I struggled to be bothered finishing it.

alexica Aug 19, 2014

I liked "The Imperfectionists" and so read "The Rise and Fall". Unfortunately, it was not a satisfying read for me. At no point did I really care for any of the characters or what happened to them and they mostly were a pretty grisly group. One of the reviews uses the word strange and the book is that. Another calls the main character, "humane." I don't think I would agree with that. She's basically damaged and acts accordingly until the end when she tries to rectify her actions. It would seem that she would have caught on much sooner and become a "humane" person. It might be the kind of book someone would write if they were in mourning for the death of a loved one, perhaps a sister.

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