The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

By Tom Rachman
(The Dial Press, Hardcover, 9780679643654, 400pp.)

Publication Date: June 10, 2014

Other Editions of This Title: Compact Disc

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Description

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




About the Author

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.




NPR
Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers â?? the latest from Imperfectionists author Tom Rachman â?? follows the travels of a young bookstore proprietor. It's a "strange" book that requires a bit of patience. More at NPR.org

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NPR
Saturday, Jun 7, 2014

Tom Rachman has written a book for book lovers in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. The best-selling novelist talks with NPR's Scott Simon about the difference between reading and literature. More at NPR.org

NPR Audio Player Requires Flash Upgrade: Please upgrade your plug-in to view this content.




Praise For The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

“Ingenious . . . Rachman zigzags from [1988] to 1999-2000 to 2011, as he tells the story of a woman who bears witness to decades of rapid cultural, political and technological changes. . . . [He] 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. . . . The Rise & Fall of Great Powers eventually lays out the whole trajectory of Tooly’s life and shines light on the dark mysteries of her scrambled childhood. . . . 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
 
“A superb follow-up to 2010’s The Imperfectionists . . . ambitious and engaging . . . The book is a lovely mystery without a corpse, less a whodunit than a who-is-she?”The Seattle Times
 
“If you’re in the market for an accomplished and satisfying novel, one that will take hold of you immediately from page one and set you down gently at the end feeling uplifted and rewarded, you could just stop reading at the end of this paragraph and wander over to your favourite bookstore and buy a copy of Tom Rachman’s exquisite new book, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. . . . This is what fiction is all about. It is impossible to overstate its power and elegance.”The Globe and Mail
 
“For a novel that takes place on three different continents over a period of thirty years, Tom Rachman’s The Rise & Fall of Great Powers is a surprisingly small story. That’s probably what makes it so good: Even with all the flights of fancy and exotic locales, the characters in it are beautifully human, even if half of them are con artists with Dickensian names. After his much acclaimed 2010 debut, The Imperfectionists, Rachman uses this follow-up to prove he’s a writer to watch. [Grade:] A”The A.V. Club
 
“Rachman clearly has Dickens in mind as inspiration for this sprawling tale of an orphan cast out onto the world and belatedly investigating the mystery of her origins. . . . Its pleasures are almost architectural. . . . You may come to admire, as I did, the precision of its observations, as well as its intricate form and the way stray plot pieces eventually snap into place.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR
 
“This book is mesmerising: a thorough work-out for the head and heart that targets cognitive muscles you never knew you had. Thanks, though, to Rachman’s lightness of touch and quite considerable streaks of silliness, it feels much more like dancing than exercise.”The Times (UK)
 
“Some novels are such good company that you don’t want them to end; Tom Rachman knows this, and has pulled off the feat of writing one. . . . Rachman has written a hugely likeable, even loveable book about the people we meet and how they shape us.”The Telegraph (UK)
 
“Ingeniously orchestrated.”Vanity Fair
 
“The observations raised in this novel emerge from the very specific tale of one woman and her extremely unusual circumstances, but what they all point to is a kind of reckoning with the most fundamental questions of human existence: who we are, and why. . . . While Rachman's novel offers no easy answers—indeed, how could it?—it provides a worthwhile investigation into our insatiable need for self-knowledge, a desire that is profoundly and inescapably part of what it means to be human.”Chicago Tribune
 
“[A] dizzying tale . . . The Rise & Fall of Great Powers is an intricate, sprawling and almost Dickensian novel about a girl abducted in childhood who goes searching for answers in adulthood. . . . Reporter-turned-novelist Rachman is an astute observer of human nature.”USA Today
 
“Tom Rachman’s second novel is a great jigsaw-puzzle of a book, spanning a quarter of a century and with its pieces scattered all over the world. . . . It’s in something of that spirit that, as the book moves towards its end, the strange gravities that hold its constellation of characters together start to make sense—upsetting both Tooly’s and the reader’s expectations in a satisfying and rather poignant way.”The Guardian (UK)
 
“Rachman’s comedic powers drive the story, with grace and wit lavished on plentiful asides about the value of books. . . . [He] can compose sentences, paragraphs and whole pages with near perfect pitch and rhythm.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“Tom Rachman scores again . . . [Tooly] is plucky and admirable and so fully drawn that you watch with horror as she makes terrible and cruel choices through her young adulthood. . . . We watch with admiration as Tooly’s heart opens up and she does her best to correct and amend for her past behaviors. . . . This is a satisfying adult novel with a hopeful ending.”The Oregonian
 
“Tremendously readable, with characters who often spark and jump off the page, and a central puzzle that grips you until the end.”The Huffington Post
 
“When a Tom Rachman novel lands in the bookstores, I stop living and breathing to devour it. It’s hard to think of anyone who has a better grasp on the world we live in (and I mean, like, the entire planet) and can write about it with such entertainment and panache.”—Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure
 
“The haunting tale of a young woman reassessing her turbulent past . . . brilliantly structured, beautifully written.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“Rachman’s kaleidoscopic second novel demonstrates that one’s family is very often made up of the people you find and who find you along the way.”Booklist
 
“A suspenseful novel that whisks readers around the world . . . [a journey] worth taking.”Publishers Weekly
 
“A tale about the mystery of the self, the power of books, and how truth and fiction can inextricably intermingle . . . captivating.”—Library Journal

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