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The Rise & Fall of Great Powers: A Novel

by Tom Rachman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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, superbly written, characters in this story. I struggled some in the beginning given the rather vague plot, but I ended up in total admiration at the author's ability to bring such interesting personalities to life. This one may end up a 5 star. ( )
  joyhclark | Jul 11, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would and will plan to read the Imperfectionists soon.
The book flips between three time periods in the life of the main character, Tooly. It does take a few chapters to get into the book and the way it is constructed but I found myself enjoying the surprises that each chapter unfolded. There are many stand out characters including Tooly herself and all of the different people who had a hand in raising her. ( )
  GaltJ | Jul 9, 2014 |
I received a review copy of this book.
This book tells the story of Tooly, the owner of a completely non-prosperous bookstore on the Welsh border and her attempt to discover reasons behind her strange childhood and the adults who inhabited it. The story jumps around through basically three time periods, her childhood, her young adulthood and the present time.

As the book progresses, her childhood and the adults around her seemed stranger and stranger, but never more understandable or sympathetic to this reader. She lives in many places and people come and go and it just did not come together quickly enough for my taste. I found myself wishing he would just tell the story beginning to end so I could be with Tooly as she grew to adulthood; maybe I could have empathized with her more if her story had a more organic development.

Although the book as a whole left me cold, I do recognize the determined structure the author built to tell the story and I was often struck by the effectiveness of his prose, thus causing a higher rating than I might have been inclined to give this book. ( )
  gbelik | Jun 20, 2014 |
I loved Mr. Rachman's first book, "The Imperfectionists" and was really looking forward to reading his new book. Ultimately, my high expectations were satisfied, but I did find this book a little hard to get into. The book switches among three time periods in the nomadic life of Tooly, starting when she is 9 in 1988 and ending in 2011. At first, I found the time shifting and the ambiguity of Tooly's situation jarring. However, I grew to love the time shifts and the slow reveal of the story.

The characters are a vivid group of opinionated, intelligent people, some with highly eccentric life styles and secretive lives. I wouldn't want to spend time with many of them, but I enjoyed reading about them and their reinventions. The book is also an entertaining commentary on the various time periods and places that Tooly visits. There are melancholy portions of the book dealing with aging, deceit, greed, loneliness and people who are together, but not connected. There is also a great deal of strength, humor and hopefulness in Tooly, in spite of her strange, peripatetic life.

Mr. Rachman has written two terrific books in a row and I look forward to his third.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. ( )
  fhudnell | Jun 16, 2014 |
Tooly Zylberberg is a young American woman living in the Welsh countryside. She is owner of a rundown bookstore, called The World's End. She is leading a quiet, uneventful life, just keeping afloat. One day, she is suddenly contacted by her ex-boyfriend in New York and this sparks Tooly to revisit her past.
The narrative shifts to different decades, as Tooly tries to piece together her jumbled youth. Who are her parents? Why did they abandon her? Why was she raised by an eccentric Russian outcast? From Bangkok to Brooklyn, these disparate questions, finally find answers and they are nothing like what she remembered or imagined.
Tooly's favorite book is Nicholas Nickleby, (she always totes around a tattered copy) and this fresh and sprawling novel, shares a certain Dickens feel, with her orphan childhood and a cast of colorful characters weaving in and out of her life. I also think fans of Donna Tart, will find this book worthy.
This is not always a smooth read and I would have liked more time spent in the charming Scottish bookstore but I found the novel engaging, well-written and cleverly crafted. This is Rachman's second book and I think he has earned a spot on the Must Read Author list. ( )
2 vote msf59 | Jun 15, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tom Rachmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stheeman, TjadineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Voorhoeve, OnnoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385676956, Hardcover)

The New York Times and Globe & Mail-bestselling author of The Imperfectionists returns with an intricately woven novel about a bookseller who travels the world to make sense of her puzzling past.
     Tooly Zylberberg tells a story: as a child, she was stolen from home, stashed at a den of thieves, then adopted by crooks there, who ended up raising her and even using the little girl in capers around the globe. But Tooly understands only fragments of what happened in Thailand, Italy, New York and beyond. Then, a desperate message reaches her musty bookshop in Wales, and she is lured into a journey that will reveal the secret of her childhood. Celebrated for his ingenious plotting, humanity and humor, Tom Rachman has written a novel that will amplify his reputation as one of the most exciting young writers today.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 10 Jan 2014 17:56:13 -0500)

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. Tooly believes she will never know the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search for answers.… (more)

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