The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

  • by Tom Rachman
  • Narrated by Penelope Rawlins
  • 14 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

For fans of Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, and Donna Tartt - the brilliant, intricately woven new novel by Tom Rachman, author of The Imperfectionists
Following one of the most critically acclaimed fiction debuts in years, New York Times best-selling author Tom Rachman returns with a brilliant, intricately woven novel about a young woman who travels the world to make sense of her puzzling past.
Tooly Zylberberg, the American owner of an isolated bookshop in the Welsh countryside, conducts a life full of reading, but with few human beings. Books are safer than people, who might ask awkward questions about her life. She prefers never to mention the strange events of her youth, which mystify and worry her still.
Taken from home as a girl, Tooly found herself spirited away by a group of seductive outsiders, implicated in capers from Asia to Europe to the United States. But who were her abductors? Why did they take her? What did they really want? There was Humphrey, the curmudgeonly Russian with a passion for reading; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who sowed chaos in her wake; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader whose worldview transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he disappeared.
Years later, Tooly believes she will never understand the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend in New York, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search of answers.
Tom Rachman - an author celebrated for humanity, humor, and wonderful characters - has produced a stunning novel that reveals the tale not just of one woman but of the past quarter-century as well, from the end of the Cold War to the dominance of American empire to the digital revolution of today. Leaping between decades, and from Bangkok to Brooklyn, this is a breathtaking novel about long-buried secrets and how we must choose to make our own place in the world. It will confirm Rachman’s reputation as one of the most exciting young writers we have.

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What the Critics Say

"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." (Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure)
"The haunting tale of a young woman reassessing her turbulent past...brilliantly structured, beautifully written." (Kirkus Reviews)
"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." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Wonderful book. Superb narration.

If you could sum up The Rise & Fall of Great Powers in three words, what would they be?

Fresh but timeless.


What did you like best about this story?

Memorable characters; unusual settings.


Have you listened to any of Penelope Rawlins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I've never heard this narrator before, but she made the story very real to me.


Any additional comments?

If you're still mourning the end of The Goldfinch, this isn't a bad follow up.

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- Amazon Customer

Weird People to Know

The title of the book leads one to believe that we may meet people of great power, but we don't. We follow a child, girl, woman named Tully as she grows in spite of little or no real nurturing by parents and others with whom she lives.We are lleft with a quasi happy feeling that anther person has come into her life just at a moment when we the reader feel that she is at a low in her life that needs a companion. Another man who will provide her with friendship now that she has untangled who were those people she was influenced by throughout her life thus far. I often thought about a abandoning this book as not many if any of the characters to whom I felt a relationship with. The reader was a woman with talents of dramatizing and giving different voice to the several main characters, though it was sometimes annoying.
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- Joyann Sanz-agero "Joy Sanz-Agero"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-10-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio