I received this book for free from the Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Published by Simon and Schuster on September 28, 2021
Genres: Fiction / Literary
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Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award!
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes the highly anticipated Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Set in Constantinople in the fifteenth century, in a small town in present-day Idaho, and on an interstellar ship decades from now, Anthony Doerr’s gorgeous third novel is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope—and a book. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Doerr has created a magnificent tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us, and with those who will be here after we’re gone.
Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.
Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.
Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of gravest danger. Their lives are gloriously intertwined. Doerr’s dazzling imagination transports us to worlds so dramatic and immersive that we forget, for a time, our own. Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.
What a strangely beautiful book! I was very impressed by All the Light We Cannot See by this author and knew that I wanted to read more of his work. Then I saw the title of this book and wondered what exactly I had signed myself up for. This was definitely a different kind of read which juggles multiple points of view spanning centuries. Once I got into the story, I didn’t want to put this book down and ended up reading more than half of it in a single day.
There is a lot going on in this book. It was wonderfully written and the characters were incredibly well done. I was so invested in the lives of these characters that I was sad when it changed to a new perspective only to start the process all over again. My favorite characters in the book might have been Moonlight and Tree (yes, I loved the oxen) and my heart ached with the things that they went through in this story. We see those oxen from Omeir’s point of view. He is a boy that has been enlisted along with his oxen to be a part of an invading army in the 1400s. We also see Anna at this same point in time. She is an orphan living in Constantinople with other women who embroider the priests’ robes. In the present time, we meet Zeno, an older gentleman, who is helping a group of children with a play at the local library. I really loved going back in time to see all of the key points in his life. Then there is Seymour who hasn’t had it easy and has decided to do a big thing to make a statement. In the future, we meet Konstance who has lived her whole life on a ship headed to a new planet.
Are you confused yet? I was at first. Each of these characters and periods in time is linked by a story of a man named Aethon called Cloud Cuckoo Land. I loved seeing each of the small pieces that connected these stories take shape. There were times that I was really worried about each of these characters and I was amazed by just how real they felt to me. Each of these characters had their own story which became a vital piece in this larger tale.
I would highly recommend this book to others. The story worked for me on every level with its fantastic characters and beautiful writing. I will definitely be reading more of this author’s work in the future.
I received a digital review copy of this book from Scribner via NetGalley.