vendredi 15 août 2014

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman


Tooly Zylberberg, an American with one of the most unlikely names in fiction, owns a tiny bookshop in a tiny Welsh village, where she can avoid humans and hide among books. Still mystified by the events of her youth, which saw her spirited away from Asia to Europe to the US by a group of strange misfits, she tries to avoid thinking about her past. But when a former boyfriend from New York contacts her about Humphrey, the old Russian man who once took her under her wing, Tooly finds herself forced to return to a world she has left behind, a world still full of mysteries. For somewhere in the wild existence she once shared with Humphrey, the chaotic and temptuous Sarah and the charismatic, mysterious Venn, lies the truth about herself…

Held together by one of the most interesting narrative structures I have ever seen – the book cycles constantly through three separate time periods – The Rise and Fall of Great Powers is Tom Rachman’s sophmore effort, his first book since 2010’s The Imperfectionists. It is a great read, full of interesting, quirky characters, whom we follow through three different incarnations. Held together by the central figure of Tooly, we see each of these people in the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s, with each time period clearly defined and described, without ever falling into period cliches. A clera love of books and reading is present throughout – most of the characters are readers, and Tooly especially carries her love of the written world throughout her adventures (she is described as someone who won’t finish a book because she doesn’t want the people she meets in books to end with “a blank space at the bottom of the final page”). A mind-twisting mystery is teased throughout the novel, bringing all of the storylines full circle by the end of it, and setting up some great revelations in the final pages. I loved The Rise and Fall of Great Powers almost as much as The Imperfectionists, and hope we get a new Tom Rachman novel before too long!

I gave The Rise and Fall of Great Powers 4 stars.

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