“Cloud Cuckoo Land,” released Sept. 28, is Anthony Doerr’s latest novel. A literary epic spanning nearly six centuries that follows the lives of five characters who are connected by their love for a single book: “Cloud Cuckoo Land.”
The book “Cloud Cuckoo Land” is by Diogenes, and is about a man named Aethon who is on a journey to find an idealistic city in the clouds named Cloud Cuckoo Land, a place where everyone is wise and there exists no suffering. His story is the single unifying thread that binds together the five overarching narratives, as his misfortunes and discoveries are reflected in their lives.
“Cloud Cuckoo Land” begins in the future with Konstance, a young girl aboard the Argos, an interstellar ship headed for planet Beta Oph2 after the earth becomes uninhabitable. Konstance spends her time copying down on pieces of scrap sack the story of Aethon, told to her as a bedtime story by her father.
In the distant past, living inside the walls of Constantinople, is Anna, a twelve-year-old orphan. She finds the story of Aethon in a monastery and reads it to her ill sister, Maria, while the walls of her city are under attack. On the opposite side of the 1453 siege, is Omeir, a boy many miles away from home who along with his two oxen, is recruited for the army.
Five hundred years later in Idaho, seventeen-year-old Seymour’s love for owls and the natural world leads him to join a radical environmentalist group that promises—only after he bombs the Eden’s Gate Realty office— the earth will be saved. The Lakeport Public Library, which resides next to the realty office, is under attack by Seymour the same night that Zeno, an eighty-six-year-old man, is putting on Aethon's story as a play with a group of five children.
Although the switching between past, present, and future can be disorienting at times, Doerr manages to tie it all together with the story of Aethon that is told in between narratives. He takes his time unraveling the epic, and as the story became clearer, I found myself unable to put the book down.
Not only is the story itself engaging, but Doerr’s lyrical prose is captivating and lively and his sentences flow and move like water. His vivid imagery is transportive, painting clear pictures in the reader's mind as the novel moves through different historical epochs.
From war and destruction in 1453 Constantinople to a single mom struggling to make ends meet in 20th century Idaho, Doerr’s complex characters face similar struggles despite their differences, demonstrating that the human experience is universal.
This novel is full of the same striking prose, compelling characters, and wondrous storytelling that won Doerr a Pulitzer Prize for his 2014 novel, “All the Light We Cannot See.”
“Cloud Cuckoo Land” emphasizes the importance of literature and the power it has to transcend time and space. Key figures in all five narratives are storytellers—some are librarians, other family members—who all strive towards the same goal: to preserve stories.
In an interview with CBS News, Doerr says "Our lives are limited, but hopefully the species is not. And so that, if we can continue to carry and transmit culture and this place to the next generations, that's the best we can do."
Anthony Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land” is a tribute to the magic of storytelling, and the power stories have to transform us—if we let them.