I always tread carefully when selecting another work from an enjoyed author, in fear of spoiling the first one but when I finished Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists“, I had to read his next book! The bar was set pretty high for the fans and with all apprehensions associated to the beginner’s luck, I started the “Rise and Fall of Great Powers” not knowing what to expect! The book was an awesome surprise – a totally differently mesmerizing account of characters. Splendid read – hard to decide which book was better.
After reading Rise and Fall of Great Powers, I did not want to read another book for a long time lest the essence of this beautifully sad story should dissolve, not that the story by any means could evaporate so easily from my mind! I fell in love with the book immediately and could not pull away from it till I finished it. Rachman for being so young has remarkable hold on the history in general and that of literature, authors – as well as the inner most feelings of women and men of all ages! A very intelligent writer, he keeps the readers so engaging in every character and builds the surprise both for reader and his heroine.
Initially the book, to some might seem a little drag but soon after the reader should settle down. There is a certain order to how chapters are laid out in terms of timeline – 1988, 2001 and 2011, starting and ending at 2011. The characters are beautiful carved and so true to the roles that the writer has assigned them. Although the reader is given an impression that loose ends are tied up at every step, most of the story does not surface till the end. In the book, you will get to know Tooly and Humphery and Venn and Paul and Sarah who all seem to be sojourning at different parts of the world, following or maybe running away from each other. Tooly is an orphan with parents, a mountebank by training but a sensitive and sensible person by nature when left to her own devices. Venn is the father figure she looks up to and somehow with no consistency attributed to his plans appears trustworthy for her. “He was maddening, he was unpredictable, he was late. But he always arrived in the end. So, she waited”. Sarah is the opposite who although drifts in and out of Tooly’s life just like Venn but her demeaner does not lend her the trust Tooly enjoys with Venn. For more than half the book you read about Tooly as a bystander but as the caprices of the book change, you may find yourself in same boat, as trapped and confounded as she is. I have not felt such strong a connection with another character in a long time, both while reading the book and afterwards. The book does not give feeling of a story but life itself rather. The background goes farther back than Tooly’s age courtesy to Humphery and the rest of the landscape is painted by Rachman in his casual way.
A contemporary writer by era, Rachman does not conform to the current style – he seems like a writer with his own unique style or one who belongs to a different cohort of authors. If you did not like The Imperfectionists, do not let that be a turn off. This book has a completely different skeletal. Unlike the former in which there were many characters and the story did not appear very conclusive, this one has a very strong plot with characters consistently appearing in almost each chapter. The book is written from Tooly’s viewpoint till the end when the perspective for a very short time switches to another character (reminds me of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen). The book is very different from any other I have read recently. it has the classic literary feel to it, a different writing style and a beautiful landscape. A great thought-provoking book, truly sad about things and events you cannot do anything about with time passed, damages done, fates decided. I am thoroughly looking forward to upcoming works by Tom Rachman. His latest is Basket of Deplorables and coming in March and available to pre-order is The Italian Teacher. His first work is The Imperfectionist and here is my review on the book.
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