The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

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Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Format: Paperback
Published: 9th April 2015
Amazon | Goodreads

Tooly Zylberberg tells a story: as a child, she was stolen from home, stashed at a den of thieves, then adopted by crooks there, who ended up raising her and even using the little girl in capers around the globe.

But Tooly understands only fragments of what happened in Thailand, Italy, New York and beyond. Then, a desperate message reaches her musty bookshop in Wales, and she is lured into a journey that will reveal the secret of her childhood.

I really enjoyed this book. I found the characters so interesting. I’ve spent days trying to decide if I actually like Tooley or if I just like the fact that she owns a book shop. In the end I decided that its a little bit of both. I love that books play a huge role in this book. As it turns out the best way to my heart is to write a book about books.

This book is really Tooley’s journey, spanning over three decades. She is trying to find out who she is and what happened to her in the past. Someone described this book as a jigsaw puzzle and it really is. The narrative moves between three decades, you go along with Tooley trying to fit all the pieces of her life into place.

This is a must read book. Its fantastic and heartbreaking and the ending is wonderfully realistic. I loved this book. Its one that will stay with you.

This has nothing to do with the review, I just wanted to mention it. There is a quote at the end of this book I wanted to talk about because it explains perfectly the reason why I prefer physical books to ebooks:

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 included a snooze on page forty.

When we read an ebook we experience the story but that’s it. When we read a book we experience the story but the story is contained within an object. We associate memories with that object whether that be what we were doing while reading that book or other things that just happened to happen during that particular time of our life.

That object – book – begins to get its own story, one that has nothing to do with the story contained within its pages. Its a story that you miss out on if you read on a little screen. Its a story that makes reading that book more enjoyable. And I like that.

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*I received a copy of this book from Sceptre Books in exchange for an honest review.


  • Annika Perry

    Sounds like a very interesting book and I’ll definately take a look. I do like the quote about books v. Ebooka and totally agree. My home is a testimony to my love of books with bookshelves in every room includingthe landing. However, owing to a cornea disease I was introduced to ebooks and it became a life changer as I could so easily change the font size. It’s a discussion that’s been taking place on and off on my blog.

    • bluchickenninja

      Yes, the ability to change font size is really fantastic. I used to make the font size smaller with my first ebook reader, smaller font meant less page turns, meaning less battery power used.

      But the ability to make it bigger really helps people with eye problems. I think some ereaders are able to read the text to you as well.

  • Heather

    I love that quote (and great review by the way – just added the book to my TBR on Goodreads). I bought a customised date stamp a while ago with my name on it that I use to stamp in the cover of my new books. So it’ll say “Added to Heather Croxon’s Library on” and then the date. I like to think that some of my books will end up in the hands of strangers, they’ll see that stamp and be able to find out about me on the Internet (due to my probably large digital footprint) and know about the person who had the book before them. Sort of like my life is giving the book a life. Meanwhile my eBooks will forever be stranded in oblivion.

      • Heather

        I read something a while ago (can’t remember where though), that it is/was traditional for owners to mark their books, and then the next owner will mark it, and so on, so that people in the future could trace a book’s history all the way back to it’s original owner. That definitely tells the story of where a book has been!

  • Lynn Love

    Great review and love the quote about ‘real’ books. I have a ton of books I’ll never read again, but some of them were so important or made such an impact on me when I read them, I couldn’t possibly part with them. I know I wouldn’t have that attachment if they were on a Kindle

  • Nin_DS

    Love the quote about books 😀 travelling means I have had to part with mine and get a kindle 🙁 .. can’t wait to be reunited with my books! 🙂

    • bluchickenninja

      Thanks 🙂 I really enjoy having a Kindle when I’m travelling. You have a bigger choice of books and if you finish one its easier to buy another. But physical books are still better!

  • brittabottle

    Absolutely fantastic quote! My parents have ebooks and I still refuse. It just isn’t the same for me, and I just think this quote sums up exactly why. I’ll be going abroad for an extensive period of time in September and am considering investing in one just because it will be so much easier for travelling purposes, but really, when it all comes down to it, there is nothing I’d rather read than a real book.
    Oh yes, this books sounds fascinating, too. May have to check it out. 🙂

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