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The Rise & Fall of Great Powers: A Novel | [Tom Rachman]

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers: A Novel

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?
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Publisher's Summary

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 best-selling 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.

©2014 Tom Rachman (P)2014 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"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)

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (37 )
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3.5 (30 )
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3.9 (31 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer Roslindale, MA, United States 08-10-14
    Amazon Customer Roslindale, MA, United States 08-10-14 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    29
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful book. Superb narration."
    If you could sum up The Rise & Fall of Great Powers in three words, what would they be?

    Fresh but timeless.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Memorable characters; unusual settings.


    Have you listened to any of Penelope Rawlins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I've never heard this narrator before, but she made the story very real to me.


    Any additional comments?

    If you're still mourning the end of The Goldfinch, this isn't a bad follow up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joyann Sanz-agero St. Louis, MO 08-09-14
    Joyann Sanz-agero St. Louis, MO 08-09-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    4
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
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    "Disappointed A Lot"
    What disappointed you about The Rise & Fall of Great Powers?

    The main character was bizarre, and her story failed to interest me. Tulie or Matilda, and the strange life she led was just that, strange. It seems to me that Mr. Rachman has a philosophy about life and the world he and all of us are living in, and some, if not all of characters impart these ideas as we move through the novel.


    What was most disappointing about Tom Rachman’s story?

    It lacked any storyline that failed to interest me. Not Humphrey, Paul, Sarah, Tulie, Duncan. any of them.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Oh, yes the narrator did not help increase the enjoyment of this book. Her efforts to dramatize every character's voice in the novel, including little 10 year old Tulie and grown-up Tulie, Humphrey, Sarah, et al. Dramatization of a story can be more detrimental to the author's text than enhancing it. . It was so slow going, and when I tried to increase the speed, it just didn't help.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Rise & Fall of Great Powers?

    Sorry, but I can't nail down the specific scenes that should be cut. I was just glad when the end came, and my thought was, and so, that's it?


    Any additional comments?

    I will not be recommending this book to any of my friends. Maybe I might have enjoyed it more if I read the book and did not audit it. The Imperfectionists by Mr. Rachman, I enjoyed.,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Fairbanks HONOLULU, HI, US 07-17-14
    Robert Fairbanks HONOLULU, HI, US 07-17-14 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "speed reading"
    What would have made The Rise & Fall of Great Powers better?

    The narrator spoke so quickly that I missed at least half of what she said, making the story unintelligible.


    Has The Rise & Fall of Great Powers turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Noo


    Would you be willing to try another one of Penelope Rawlins’s performances?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    snowy plover Walnut Creek, CA 06-27-14
    snowy plover Walnut Creek, CA 06-27-14 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    182
    9
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Tough to follow on tape"
    What did you like best about The Rise & Fall of Great Powers? What did you like least?

    Rachman switches the time frames back and forth from year to year and it's really hard to keep track of with the audiobook. This is a book I would much rather have gotten to read on my iPad or in paper.


    Would you recommend The Rise & Fall of Great Powers to your friends? Why or why not?

    I'm not done yet so not sure. This isn't just a straight story, but a very wandering narrative so it's impossible to tell where it's going.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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