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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • 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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Captivating and a delight to read

Some had suggested it for those who loved the Goldfinch by Donna Tart. In my opinion, while this story developed over the progression of the protagonist's life starting in early adolescence much like the Goldfinch, the unraveling of the characters in Rise and Fall was spellbinding and hard to bear in some parts. May have even shed a tear while riding the bus listening to this non-traditional story. Additionally, there were sever quotes I would stop to highlight in my Kindle so that I could keep them as tokens from a well-written novel.

Worth the length if you like character development and topics on family.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Weird People to Know

The title of the book leads one to believe that we may meet people of great power, but we don't. We follow a child, girl, woman named Tully as she grows in spite of little or no real nurturing by parents and others with whom she lives.We are lleft with a quasi happy feeling that anther person has come into her life just at a moment when we the reader feel that she is at a low in her life that needs a companion. Another man who will provide her with friendship now that she has untangled who were those people she was influenced by throughout her life thus far. I often thought about a abandoning this book as not many if any of the characters to whom I felt a relationship with. The reader was a woman with talents of dramatizing and giving different voice to the several main characters, though it was sometimes annoying.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Rose
  • Kansas city, Mo, United States
  • 11-04-15

Couldn't even finish

Would you try another book from Tom Rachman and/or Penelope Rawlins?

I would not try another book by Tom Rachman, but I would be open to hearing Penelope Rawlins reading a different novel.

What was most disappointing about Tom Rachman’s story?

By half way through I still wasn't interested in the main character. It jumped around too much between locale and past/present. By the time I had figured out how some of the characters connected, the book skipped to a different time/place in her history and I had to re-establish myself within the story. Maybe this would be a better novel to read than to listen to. I was unable to stay interested in the story because it took so much of my focus to follow.

Any additional comments?

There are books you can't put down or can't stop listening to - sneaking in a few minutes where ever you can. And then there is this novel... I had to talk myself in to listening for the few hours I made it through.

  • 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

  • Overall
  • 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.