September 27, 2021
Genre/Categories/Settings: Myth/Historical Fiction/Science Fiction/Contemporary/Literary Fiction mashup, Books About Books, Libraries/Librarians, Constantinople, Idaho, Spaceship
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Thanks #NetGalley @ScribnerBooks for a complimentary eARC of #CloudCuckooLand upon my request. All opinions are my own.
Some books are daunting to summarize and review. This is one. I apologize for the longer than usual summary.
Cloud Cuckoo Land is four stories in one. The stories involve three different time periods and genres and one myth (a story within the stories).
One story is set in the 1400s in Constantinople. There are two main characters. One is a poor thirteen-year-old orphan girl who lives and works with other women who embroider the robes of priests. Anna is curious and exhibits an insatiable desire to learn to read. She discovers the ancient manuscript of the story of Aethon who wants to be turned into a bird. The other main character is Omeir, a village boy who lives outside the walls of Constantinople. He has a cleft palate and is an oxen whisperer. One day he is forced to join an invading army and sets out with the soldiers toward Constantinople. His path will cross with Anna’s.
Another story is set five hundred years later in a library in Idaho. In this contemporary story, Zeno is eighty something and volunteers at the library and right now he’s helping children rehearse for a play adaptation of the ancient story of Aethon. He will cross paths with a troubled teenager, Seymour, who has planted a bomb in the library shelves as a statement about the environment and the endangerment of Owls.
The third story is set in the future and is about young Konstance who is on a spaceship called the Aros. Her favorite story is one her father has told and retold about Atheon.
The fourth story is a myth about Aethon and his fascination with the city in the clouds and his quest to be turned into a bird.
The @PulitzerPrizes author of Cloud Cuckoo Land hops between the stories and time periods with great finesse and frequency.
“A text…a book…is a resting place for the memories of people who have lived before. A way for the memory to stay fixed after the soul has traveled on.”
Take Notes: My advice is take notes while reading! Once you are acclimated, the individual stories are engaging and distinct from one another.
Writing: The writing is beautiful and filled with vivid details and powerful imagery and is masterful in its structure and themes. Every sentence is expertly crafted. At 637 pages, Cloud Cuckoo Land is engaging, thoughtfully written, easily read, and yet ambitious. Readers need to be prepared for a great deal of hopping around between story lines, characters, and time periods. This is the challenging and ambitious aspect of the read. But trust the author and you will find your reading rhythm. Although there is a strong theme of hope, the stories are tinged with sadness, tragedy, and despair. Readers who love a twist will be pleased with one of the stories. I have no doubt that this book will will be nominated for major awards. It’s brilliant from a writer’s point of view, and I especially loved the personification. I need to note that if you loved All the Light We Cannot See, this book is significantly different.
I Wish: Two of the three stories have satisfactory conclusions. I wish the third story of Konstance on the spaceship had a more satisfactory ending. I read it twice and was left hoping for more. Although it was a good story, it was more open-ended than the others and I have questions.
Connecting Themes: There are themes that connect all the content: love of stories, books, libraries, and storytelling, the importance of libraries, preservation of knowledge and thought, writing in the past that affects the future, and the importance of HOPE. In addition, each individual story has its own thoughtful themes. The author packs many substantial themes into these stories as well as some significant symbolism. At times I felt like I should be reading it as part of a class or at least with the benefit of a set of SparkNotes to aide my comprehension. I fear some of it went over my head.
Recommended: I’m recommending Cloud Cuckoo Land for readers who like a challenging and ambitious read, for fans of Anthony Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See), and for book clubs whose readers might enjoy reading this from a literary perspective.
Content Considerations: tragedy, poverty, physical deformity, death of a sister, bomb violence
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Meet the Author, Anthony Doerr
Is Cloud Cuckoo Land on your TBR?
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