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A Kirkus Best Book of 2014
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.
‘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.‘
‘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.’
‘The haunting tale of a young woman reassessing her turbulent past … brilliantly structured, beautifully written.’ starred review
‘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.’
‘A suspenseful novel that whisks readers around the world … [a journey] worth taking.’
‘A tale about the mystery of the self, the power of books, and how truth and fiction can inextricably intermingle … captivating.’
‘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.’
‘Brilliantly structured, beautifully written and profoundly sad.’ starred review
‘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.’