Published by Random House Publishing Group on June 10th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Family Life, Fiction, Literary
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Tooly Zylberberg, the American owner of an isolated bookshop in the Welsh countryside, conducts a life full of reading, but with few human beings. Books are safer than people, who might ask awkward questions about her life. She prefers never to mention the strange events of her youth, which mystify and worry her still. Taken from home as a girl, Tooly found herself spirited away by a group of seductive outsiders, implicated in capers from Asia to Europe to the United States. But who were her abductors? Why did they take her? What did they really want? There was Humphrey, the curmudgeonly Russian with a passion for reading; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who sowed chaos in her wake; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader whose worldview transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he disappeared. Years later, Tooly believes she will never understand the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend in New York, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search of answers.
For the most part I liked Tooly and most of the other characters, but nothing made a whole lot of sense. That is to say that I didn’t find any of the characters to be overly believable or compelling. Tooly seems weird and misguided, Venn is clearly a sociopath, Paul and Sarah are just plain irritating, and Humphrey – I don’t even know. More to the point I didn’t really care what happened to any of them.
Rachman tried admirably to use a non-linear form of storytelling to keep the reader engaged, but unfortunately the device just doesn’t work here. The non-linear story is a device that I normally love. But I almost wonder if this book would have been a better read had it been written in chronological order. Instead of building mystery and intrigue around Tooly’s odd situation the device just left me feeling tired and irritable.
So, not the most glowing review, but this book is still quite readable and the writing is solid. It might appeal to a different type of reader. With that cover I really wanted to love this book, but I just couldn’t.
Maybe had I read Rachman’s widely celebrated The Imperfectionists first, I might have had different feelings.
A much more favorable review was given by Tanya over at 52 Books or Bust. Check it out.
What was the last book you read that you wanted to love, but just didn’t, Reader?