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The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom…

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

by Tom Rachman

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1833164,645 (3.81)26



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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
There are so many lovely and thought-provoking moments in this book, but I just was not consistently invested in its characters. They all interested me intellectually, but the dynamics between characters (save for the dynamic between Tooly and Mac and between Tooly and Humphrey) did not draw me in emotionally as much as I expected them to after being totally absorbed in Rachman's The Imperfectionists a few years ago. ( )
  kellie.herson | Aug 6, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Explore themes of time, memory, relationships, culture, and technology while accompanying Tooly on an exploration of her mysterious past. While the book deals with weighty themes, the prose is fun to read, the mystery keeps the reader turning pages, and Tooly makes for good company. ( )
  zhejw | Jul 27, 2014 |
Witty writing, especially in the characters of Fogg and Humphrey. The flaky Sarah is well described - don't we all know, or know of someone like her. As occasionally happens in novels, this protagonist is one of the less interesting, of the characters.
The book moves around among three different decades. Transitioning these periods takes some getting used to, but pays off, by not requiring you to remember the beginning of the book, in order to fully appreciate later events.
Some of the plot line is reminiscent of Great Expectations, as well as a couple of other classics I won't mention, as they might spoil some surprises.
A sweet tidy ending, maybe a little too tidy, but overall, an enjoyable read. ( )
  DougJ110 | Jul 26, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What do you do when your unreliable narrator is yourself? When everything you thought you knew about your past is not just a lie, but a cruel lie? Although Rachman takes some time working up to it, this is the issue that his main character, Tooly Zylberberg, has to face. Tooly tells her story in three rotating sections: the first, as a young girl living in Bangkok, the latest in a series of foreign cities she's lived; the second, as she turns 21 in New York; and the last as an adult, when she's separated from the characters of her earlier life, but must return to them. Although she is initially reluctant, Tooly eventually seeks out these people to get answers about why her childhood was shaped the way it was.

There's quite a bit of intentional misdirection in the lead-up. For one thing, Tooly refers to everyone by their first name, so it takes a while for her relationship to them to become clear. And then, of course, there's the problem that some of the characters aren't at all who or what they purport to be. As the story begins to come clear, though, it's quite compelling. And Tooly is a well-drawn character. Unfortunately, the unrelenting and unapologetic selfishness of other characters detract so much from the story itself, that even when Tooly found her answers, such as they were, I felt as though I didn't get mine.

In literature, not all characters are, or should be, likable. The good guys don't always get rewarded, and the bad guys don't always get punished. Even so, one wants to feel as though a character's actions have repercussions for them. In this book, both the selfish and the unselfish, the cruel and the benevolent, just keep on keeping on in a way that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. ( )
  mzonderm | Jul 26, 2014 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Tom Rachman’s ingenious second novel, “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers,” is harder to describe than “The Imperfectionists,” his sensational first.
The richness of this book is more apparent once the reading is over. In other words, “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers” is knottier than “The Imperfectionists,” and more deliberately confusing.
added by sneuper | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Jun 10, 2014)
Mingling these time frames and withholding explanations about characters’ relations to each other, Rachman raises the stakes of this minor mystery somewhat higher than the novel can ultimately afford.
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.
added by sneuper | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Jun 10, 2014)
To my taste, at least at the outset, Rachman steers dangerously close to being merely whimsical. There's something slightly cutesy about the wall-to-wall eccentricity, something slightly precious about the fey withholding of information from the reader.
I had a little snooze on page 40, but by page 340 I was bolt awake. I'll keep The Rise and Fall of Great Powers on my shelf.
added by sneuper | editthe Guardian, Sam Leith (Jun 5, 2014)
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.
All this amounts to a touching story of fallen idols, with brilliant insight into misplaced loyalties, and the power that adults have over children. Rachman has written a hugely likeable, even loveable book about the people we meet and how they shape us.
added by sneuper | editthe Telegraph, Lucy Daniel (Jun 4, 2010)

» Add other authors

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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