As Tooly strolled back downtown, she glanced at other buildings. No matter how she imagined their insides – parties veering out of control, kitchens with faucets running, angry couples playing cards for real money – the truth was always more peculiar. In a vertical city, cramped dwellings were the only territory unreservedly reserved, each home an intimate fortress. Yet they were so easy to penetrate. ('Don't want to intrude, but I used to live here. Might it be possible to take a quick look? I happened to be passing and – wow, even just standing here, so many memories!') Mostly, one needed only knock, say a few lines, enter. Why limit yourself to the outside when you could walk right in, peek at their lives – maybe even leave with a handy nugget.
Who is Tooly Zylberberg? How did she end up running a second-hand bookstore in Wales? The Russian émigré Humphrey teaches her to play chess, but how does he fit in? Or Sarah who turns up without warning and then disappears again? And what about Venn, the shadowy and charismatic figure who seems to be one step ahead of everybody?
Spanning three decades, and taking us from Bangkok to Brooklyn to the border towns of Wales, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers is a story about how mystifying the past can be, and how the lives we lead can seem indecipherable even to us. It's a story about unexpected connections and the revelations that change everything.
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers will consolidate Rachman's reputation as one of the most assured and exciting young writers alive.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
A welcome addition to the genre is The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: a truly baffling, playful, enigmatic work from Tom Rachman, author of The Imperfectionists, a justifiably lauded debut. That novel was about wordsmiths, journalists working on an English language newspaper in Rome. In this novel, Rachman maintains his passion for those whose livelihood centres on words, but from a different perspective. His main character is the enigmatic Tooly Zylberberg, who owns a failing bookshop in a tiny Welsh village. Reading the first sixty pages of this novel I must confess I have no idea where I am going: I am in several countries, without a map or a clear sense of where the plot is heading but I don't much care because the prose is so entertaining and energetic and the characters so rich. From the captivating first sentences, I've decided to trust the author to take me on some meandering journey without caring too much where we end up. It's the journey, not the destination, right?
About the Author
Tom Rachman was born in 1974 in London, and grew up in Vancouver. He has worked as an editor at the foreign desk of The Associated Press in New York, as an AP correspondent in Rome and as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. Rachman now lives in London. His first novel, The Imperfectionists, was longlisted for the The Giller Prize.
'This mysterious story, beautifully composed and lyrical, is anchored by its deeply etched, oddball characters, floating in and out of Tooly's life, and by a richly detailed sense of time and place. When we return, at the end, to Tooly's musty old bookstore of meagre dreams, it's in this most reassuringly mundane of places that a magical moment may or may not occur, leaving a great big smile on your face either way as you reluctantly close the covers.' New Daily '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 'The haunting tale of a young woman reassessing her turbulent past ... brilliantly structured, beautifully written.' starred review 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 '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 'Deft, clever and a little bit wacky, Tom Rachman's follow up to the internationally acclaimed The Imperfectionists, is a delight. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers is a wonderful piece of story telling.' -- Hoopla 'Brilliantly structured, beautifully written and profoundly sad.' starred review Kirkus Reviews 'This is a book about constant motion...about individual lives: how opaque we are to each other, and how little we understand our own histories...I'll keep The Rise and Fall of Great Powers on my shelf.' Guardian
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 28th May 2014
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3 x 2.9
Weight (kg): 23.4