221_arts_books_rosefieldPaul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which surveys 500 years of global political history, was published in 1987. Tom Rachman’s second novel shares its name almost exactly with Kennedy’s work and opens the following year, with nine-year-old Tooly Zylberberg moving from Australia to Bangkok, accompanied by a man who may or may not be a relative. In 1999, Tooly is living in Brooklyn with an elderly, chess-obsessed Russian émigré. Twelve years later, she owns a failing bookshop in the Welsh countryside.

Tooly’s desire to keep…

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