Tom Rachman’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Great Powers,’ Was a Miss for Me

Rachman writes with a straightforward voice peppered in poetry. The characters are as individualistic and specific as any found in good contemporary literature, yet the lack of emotional engagement keeps me from having a strong attachment to this book. 


Tooly Zylberberg is a survivor. Abandoned by her mother, used by the man that she considers to be her father and taught to manipulate and keep people at a distance she struggles to find depth in relationships, except with books. Humphrey is as close to a family figure that Tooly has and even their relationship is based on lies and false pretense. 

The story spans decades and oscillates between the years 1988, 2000 and 2011. There are numerous references to time; the way it is measured, the way it is perceived and theories that all things have always existed but none is fleshed out enough to impact the narrative. 

“Trivial beings think there is only present-that past is gone and future is coming. But past is like overseas: it still exists, even when you are not there anymore. Future time too. It is there already.”

There are fine moments in the book and it is well written, it just wanted a direct hit for me.  

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pub date: May 27th, 2014

ISBN: 9780385337014

Page Count: 384 pages

Publisher: Random House

*Thank you NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. 

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