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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Review: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr
Narrated by Marin Ireland & Simon Jones

Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Audio and for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publish Date: September 28, 2021
14 hrs 52 min
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Set in Constantinople in the 15th 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.

My Review:

What in the holy Cuckoo did I just finish listening to?! 😲 5 different characters and POVs with timelines that ping pong back and forth through various times with these characters.... wooooo buddy, I had no idea what was going on for the first part but I was interested enough to stick with it and damn, I'm glad that I did.  Though if I'm being completely honest, had I read my physical copy rather than listening to the audio, it could very easily have become a DNF.  The beginning feels extremely all over the place that I had to keep looking at my phone to make sure my audio didn't take me to a different book altogether. I can see this being a love/hate kind of read for the masses but I'm happy to report that it absolutely worked for me but it took me getting to the end for it to all make sense and for me to go *light bulb* - BRILLIANT.

This is basically a really long love letter to books and the passage of time. Interweaving the past, present, future, mythology, fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction... I mean, it's a LOT but it really works and I didn't see how it all came together until the very end.  That might be because I was legitimately confused for at least the first half of my listen though. 🤣

It truly is the ending that does it for me.  I love how it all interconnects.  I'll be honest and say that I may not 10000% fully understand it all.  Maybe it didn't come together as cohesively as it should have.  Maybe my brain was still trying to get certain parts to actually finish because I was left hanging.. if you know, you know.  But in the end, as I sit here and let it all marinate, I can't help but give it all the stars.  It's beautiful and lets us know that together we will always be, no matter in which timeline.

"We are all beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and that to be a part of the problem is to be human."


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