Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
: Five young people who live centuries apart and in different cultures all find direction and meaning in a work of utter fantasy that reminds the reader of the unintended consequences of seeking utopia.
Everything old is new again. Ancient myths and tales are repeated in spirit and fact with what we do. Fantastic notions lead us to places unexpected and, perhaps, unwanted. We encounter unintended consequences and regret our haste to seek utopia. All this is rendered vivid by Anthony Doerr and expanded into the stories of Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno and Konstance who are all linked by a nearly forgotten and time-eroded manuscript about Cloud Cuckoo Land, a place where all delights are provided, peace reigns and happiness is fulfilled.
Aethon, a mysterious Greek of antiquity penned a story for his ailing niece that he hoped would bring hope to her bleak life. This book is battered about, lost, found, nearly destroyed and redeemed several times. The story weaves itself into the lives of these young people in a way that is reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book. Each stain, each lost page, each patch of mold that obscures the text tells a story and even contributes to the whole, since each reader must place their own interpretation upon those parts that are missing. Peril, suffering, violence and deprivation are endured with redemption coming in many forms and with varying degrees of satisfaction and justice.
From the deep past to the near future, each character must find a way to rectify unhappiness and misfortune with their own needs for survival and sanity. Doerr does this with a graceful skill that sings the story like a medieval bard. Beauty and ugliness,
courage and cowardice, despair and hope, sacrifice and reward, kindness and cruelty and always love course through the narrative in a celebration of humanity that is inspiring. The book is a demonstration of the power and profound effects of language and literature.
I can only give this book my highest recommendation and urge everyone to read it, as I do (and did) for the author’s other notable work All the Light We Cannot See. Anthony Doerr is clearly a master craftsman of literature; I will eagerly seek out any of his works that appear in future.