From the back of the book:
High-quality intellectual! Yes, I mean you! You are thinking: What is Rise & Fall of Great Powers? Is history book? No! Is book for give big muscles? No, no! (After read this book, you still contain only small muscles. Sorry.) It is NOVEL about entire of world in last quarter-century, from end of Cold War, to up and down of America power, to tech revolution of today. But mostly, is novel about my favourite person, Tooly Zylberberg, and secrets of her life.
I am careful now - danger I say too much. I give only bit more: Tooly is bookseller in countryside of Wales. Always, she is reading. But one story she never understand: story of her past. When she is girl, strange items happen. She is taken away, around Asia, Europe, America, for many years with mystery persons. Why for? I cannot say on back of book!
One of mystery persons is me, Humphrey, old man from Russia who cheats in Ping-Pong and eats avocados. There is Sarah, who drives us crazy, and not in good way. Also, there is Duncan and Fogg and potbelly pig. And there is Venn, who is most mystery person of all.
The boy who write this book, his name is Tom Rachman. Maybe you hear of his first novel, The Imperfectionists? Bestseller book, publish in many language. Rise & Fall is very beauty follow-up. When you read it, you visit late Eighties, also Year 2000, also today; you see Bangkok, you see Brooklyn, you see bordertowns - also many places that are not begin with letter 'B'.
What novel this is! Not for trivial beings, but I don't worry: just to look at you, I can tell you have very large brain. So, what you wait?
Spanning three decades and criss-crossing the globe, THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS is the story of Tooly Zylberberg and how she got to a second-hand bookshop in Wales via the streets of Manhattan and downtown Bangkok. This novel, dazzling in its scope and inventiveness, is peopled by an extraordinary array of unforgettable characters, from Humphrey the chess-playing Russian émigré to Venn, Tooly's shadowy protector.
Once again, I started this without reading the back of the book. Unsure why I continue to do that, but sometimes I think it helps.
So I'm going to do this without any spoilers, which is REALLY hard for me. This book took me a while to read (more than ten days) because to be brutally honest, I wasn't THAT interested in the characters. But the more I think back on it, the more I enjoyed it. It certainly wasn't a page turner, but it was interesting. How many ways can I say the same thing?
I really liked the way you jump around between 2011, 1988, and 1999/2000. It was PERFECTLY done, you leave each time period knowing just enough, and wanting to know more, but then you're on to the next period. The pace was just really well done.
The characters are just sort of icky. I've read a few reviews on Tooly being a bitch, but I didn't come away with that impression AT ALL. She made the most of the cards she was dealt. I loved Paul with all my heart, and I'm completely satisfied with his entire arc. I could take or leave Fogg, but I liked his interactions with Tooly.
I think what it is is that I'm a stickler for books about books. And while I've never read any of the philosophy books they talk about, Tooly is a book nerd, who owns a used bookstore, and would rather read than deal with real people. Check check and CHECK. So even though it's probably illegal to cut and paste a section of a book, I think this basically sums up the entire story for me:
People kept their books, she thought, not because they were likely to read them again but because these objects contained the past- the texture of being oneself at a particular place, at a particular time, each volume a piece of one's intellect, whether the work itself had been loved or despised or had induced a snooze on page forty. People might be trapped inside their own heads, but they spent their lives pushing out from that locked room. It was why people produced children, why they cared about land, why nothing felt equal to one's own bed after a long trip.
There you go.
I don't know, I didn't consider it a mystery while I was reading it, because I didn't really care when or why she'd been taken. I just wanted to know what she did and why she did it. So I guess 3.5 stars? I thoroughly enjoyed it, and like I said, it's been tumbling around in my mind since I finished, but it was so...different...that I'm not sure I'd nag anyone else to read it. If that makes sense.
Disclosure: I received an advance copy of The Rise and Fall of Great Powers for review from Net Gallery. I didn't receive any other compensation for this post.
Will you read it? Anyone read anything cool lately?