Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: "The Rise and Fall of Great Powers" by Tom Rachman

Well, I think it is safe to say that Tom Rachman’s second novel, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers is, or might be close to being this years dud of a novel, although it has stiff competition from High as the Horses’ Bridles. It is one of those novels that does not seem to get anything right: the storyline is painfully derivative and not that interesting on top of that, it’s characters are one-dimensional spouters of quirky, grating dialogue, and the prose is weak and failing attempt at being smart and intellectual. I thought Rachman’s first novel The Imperfectionsists was pretty good. It was a novel in stories and I recall one of them, about a put upon journalist dealing with an irresponsible friend to quite moving and funny. But this even makes me think twice about those feelings, and feel they might have just been a fluke. The story here concerns a woman named Tooly Zylberberg, (a terrible name in my opinion) who owns a small, rather quaint bookshop in the Welsh countryside. After a getting a Facebook account, which she did reluctantly, she gets a message from her old boyfriend Duncan about her “father” being gravely ill, she is thrust back into the past to deal with what led her into a merry bunch of outsiders and what drove her from them. If this book had any kind of real threats in it, if one of the people she was with was actually dangerous, I would have liked this book a lot more, but everyone is innocuous and rather silly in what they try to accomplish and how they interact with Tooly. The only character I liked was Fogg, an androgynous man who works for in Tooly’s bookshop, who may or may not be named after the protagonist in Paul Auster’s Moon Palace, but even his quips and realistic relationship with Tooly can’t make this book anymore than one that is worth skipping.

Rating: 2/5

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