Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Book Description: 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.
Rating: 3 stars
Review: This is one of the strangest books I have read in a long time. It took me three attempts to finally get through this large book. The story is expansive and there are so many characters, timelines that you have to keep track of.
The title comes from a fictional Greek story. Zeno is the keeper of this story in present day. When the book opens Zeno is taking a group of young children to the library to rehearse the play Cloud Cuckoo Land. At the same time a young man named Seymour is about to do something that will change the course of everyone in that same library.
The book then switches to the 15th century and then to 22nd century. All the stories of course involve this Greek text. And this is where I started drifting. While I enjoyed Zeno and Seymour’s portion of the story, I had a hard time following the connections throughout. I heard Anthony Doerr give an interview on this book and he assured the readers that he left enough Easter eggs throughout so it would be easy to follow the jumping timelines and many characters, however, I did not see it.
This is a book that takes much concentration and time to read. It will not be for everyone. If you are expecting All The Light We Cannot See, this is not that book. There is a lot of beautiful writing in this book and enough that it keep me engaged, but when it was done, I did not get the feeling that this was unforgettable.
Thank you NetGalley and Scribner for an Advanced Reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.