“The Rise & Fall of Great Powers” by Tom Rachman

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman
Genre: Literary Fiction
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published 10 June 2014 by Doubleday Canada 
$29.95 CAD

From the moment I began reading this book, I was enchanted. It is one of those books you are loath to put down. Every moment spent not reading it felt like a waste of time. I was always itching to delve back into Tooly’s world. 

It begins with a woman in an unlikely bookshop in a small village in Wales. Her unprofitable business has always been to her a “terminal vocation” in which she waits “nearly with impatience for bankruptcy.” Immediately, her character intrigued me and drew me in: What a strange person with such a lack of ambition! With her knowledge of the shop’s computer (which she gained rather reluctantly) she keeps tabs on people from her past. One day she receives a message that sends her reeling. From there, she journeys through her past to piece together the life she always thought she understood.

Each character in this book is wholly original and masterfully crafted. They each have their own eccentricities that at times both endear you and repulse you. As you jump back and forth in Tooly’s life—between the years 1988, 1999, and 2011—you begin to see the trajectory that was set for her as a child. Slowly, things piece together and reveal who Tooly is, who she thought she was, how she became that way, and how she thought she became that way. 

The twists and turns in the story leave you reeling. You, like Tooly, want to understand what on earth happened to her. Why was she abducted by such a strange crew of misfits? Is that what really even happened? Who are these people to her? What is their design? Do they even have one? 

This is an amazing book. Some have said it was a bit of a let down after Rachman’s bestselling debut in The Imperfectionists. I, however, have no such bias, and am, quite frankly dumbfounded by their reaction. Now that I have read Rise & Fall I am certainly keen on reading more from Rachman. His writing, storytelling, and character development are top notch and set him up as an author to keep a look out for. I eagerly await his next creation. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to readers of literary fiction. 


Hit or Miss?: Hit. This recent release from a bestselling author definitely deserves the hype.