Summary and book reviews of Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land

A Novel

by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr X
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
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  • Published:
    Sep 2021, 640 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

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 a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring novel about children on the cusp of adulthood in a broken world, who find resilience, hope, and story.

The heroes of Cloud Cuckoo Land are trying to figure out the world around them: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour in an attack on a public library in present day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril.

An ancient text—the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky—provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters. Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we're gone.

Dedicated to "the librarians then, now, and in the years to come," Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Consider Sybil, the omnipresent, teacherly AI system aboard the Argos, to whom we are introduced in the prologue. Sybil's core objective is to keep the crew safe. As the novel progresses, Sybil's objective remains the same, but her role in Konstance's story grows more and more complicated. How does your opinion of Sybil change as the novel progresses? In your opinion, is she a sinister character, a benevolent one, or neither?
  2. Early on in the novel, Anna is enchanted by an ancient fresco in an archer's turret; each time she looks at it, "something stirs inside her, some inarticulable sense of the pull of distant places, of the immensity of the world and her own smallness inside it" (page 36). How does Anna's response to the image of Cloud...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

There are so many extraordinary things about this complex novel that it's hard to know where to begin. It defies classification, alternating between contemporary fiction, historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and Doerr handles each of the genres superbly. The stories themselves are fascinating, too. Every last character is unique and vibrant, and I grew to love and understand each of them, even a young man about to cause death and destruction. And, of course, there's Doerr's prose, which is heartbreakingly beautiful at times; there's plenty of gorgeous description, but it's never so dense that it slows down the book's pace...continued

Full Review (661 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

O, the Oprah Magazine
An Escher-like narrative whose complex architecture feels as intimate as a bedtime story.

People
Epic and profound.

San Francisco Chronicle
Stunning… deeply imagined…a novel about how people find hope in the midst of chaos and fear, and how books themselves might be the best things humans have ever done.

EOnline
Worth the seven-year wait... . Will leave you in awe.

NPR
I don't have much in the way of life advice to offer anyone, but I'd say that when you have a chance to read a book that's supposed to weave together stories from the 1453 siege of Constantinople, an elementary school play targeted by teenage ecoterrorists, and a 14-year-old girl aboard a generation ship headed for a new Earth, all revolving around a long-lost book from ancient Greece and the stories it contains, you put that right on top of your 'To Be Read' pile immediately. The fact that it's coming from Anthony Doerr, who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction? That's just gravy.

Washington Post
If you're looking for a superb novel, look no further.

LA Times
[Cloud Cuckoo Land] is as extreme a departure as they come, but so original you won't care.

Good Housekeeping
[An] intricately braided story ... [and] a stunning, mind-bending tale of survival and how closely we're all connected.

The Guardian (UK)
A dazzling epic of love, war, and the joy of books.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Doerr returns with a deeply affecting epic... . [Cloud Cuckoo Land] is a marvel.

Library Journal (starred review)
Doerr's first book since his Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See and even grander in conception and delivery ... . [Cloud Cuckoo Land] is a glorious golden mesh of stories that limns the transformative power of literature and our need to both dream big and arrive back home in a world that will eventually flow on without us. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space ... As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Booklist (starred review)
Doerr demonstrates a singular gift for bringing these complex, fully realized characters to empathetic life in this brilliantly imagined story, which moves backward and forward in time ... One of the joys of reading Cloud Cuckoo Land is discovering the threads that link the five characters' lives, which ultimately cohere in ways that are simply unforgettable, as is this amazing gift of a novel.

Reader Reviews

Jan

Loved this book
I really didn't want the story to end I enjoyed it so much!
Margo Christensen

Mesmerizing ~
Doerr’s writing opens new lines of knowledge for me: I research about as much as I read in all of Doerr’s novels. Cloud Cuckoo Land integrates story, emotions, and human desires as the reader juxtaposes story within and story without. This novel is ...   Read More
RDRA

Fascinating, but not easy...
I am generally not a fan of books where there are multiple stories taking place in different time periods. I find that although the storylines eventually merge the journey is too disjointed and jumpy for my liking. This novel uses this format, and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Fall of Constantinople

Painting of the Fall of Constantinople from above Parts of Anthony Doerr's novel Cloud Cuckoo Land take place during the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE. Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) had long been an important trading hub by the time it was officially established by Roman emperor Constantine the Great in 330 CE. The ruler moved his government to the city, and it consequently became the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the center of Christianity — a position it held for a millennium. By the 15th century, however, both the city and the empire were in decline; schism had weakened the church, warring among European powers had caused fragmentation of the empire, and plague had killed off much of the population. Still, Constantinople was looked on as the last bastion ...

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