Monday, July 14, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

Title: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
Author:  Tom Rachman
Original Publication Date: 2014
Publisher: Sceptre Books
Pages: 374
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
―Gabriel García Márquez

And indeed life has been this constant making and remaking of who we are, it is, the uncompromising search of meaning and truth. We all go out in the world, frantically searching for something, something we may feel only in vague stirrings, and sometimes, in our definite inevitable folly, something we don't know of. Whether we seek something that exist or something we have subconsciously created out of a desperate need to define ourselves has never been the question, for the search itself has always been the answer, hasn't it? And we never really come out of it do we? Then in some seemingly random manner which has always been forthcoming, we stand in retrospection, an inquisitive outside observer of our very own lives.


[book:The Rise & Fall of Great Powers|19104786] tells us of Tooly Zylberberg’s cathartic odyssey, a journey that spanned decades and crossed continents, a journey that did not only defy time and space, but masterfully that too of the traditional linear narrative form. The story is sequentially divided into three periods – 1988, 1999, and 2011 – corresponding to pivotal moments in Tooly’s life, moments that would define, and haunt her. Hand in hand with Tooly’s sojourns is the milieu of the decade including the technological advancements, political demographics and prevailing family dynamics.

To employ words in this case would, however definitely lead to failure, for the reader must be left to his/her own devices. One must know Tooly in a personal manner and not some insufficient words fraught with verbosity. So go, and read!

“Consistency in character is a form of tragedy.”(330)

Arguably some of the best characters live in this exquisitely written piece. I won’t mind loosing valuable time over a cup of coffee with any of the personas Rachman has brought to life. Their philosophies, their choices from life decisions to their dictions had me enamored. These exceptionally captivating characters left me in a daze, for their story is not of the everyday kind and yet I found myself in a corner sufficiently drunk in empathy. Rachman created universal and unusually personal characters that have necessarily, at the same time, relegated readers as outside observers and yet made them part of the narrative itself, for sublimely, one will come to realize that Tooly’s search is existent in every reader's life.

I enjoyed the candid humor;

“You don’t like sweet-and-sour, do you?”
“No,” he confirmed. “I want food that can make up its mind.”(57)

the crisp philosophically-charged conversations;

“I hate trivial beings.”
“I hate them also. But be careful; it is trivial beings that run the world.”(254)

and most of all, the universal (well it should be) love for books.

“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.”

The prose is unique, lyrical and beautiful and conclusively ties this story in impeccability. The tone is always warm and tender.

Those who find difficulty in novels written in a nontraditional form may easily find this book’s delivery as fragmented and disjointed. My prayers go to you for such stifling preference or inopportune incapacity. The structure itself reflects Tooly’s ordeal, and in many instances, ours. We are battered with inconsistencies and unending questions, white lies and lies that have become truths, truths that have been lost in obscurity. But as Tooly unravels the cryptic nature of her life, we are reminded that people whom we call family are not defined by pieces of paper or definitive blood relations, they are those who stay, long after we have left.

My copy was provided by Random House Publishing via Netgalley.
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