Anthony Doerr is back with a third novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land ($19, originally $30), which is bound to leave just as indelible of a mark on his readers as his previous bestselling novel, All the Light We Cannot See. As Doerr expertly weaves together the lives of five people living in different time periods, he tells an ancient story within a story about Aethon, who seeks to find a utopian paradise in the sky called Cloud Cuckoo Land. As each character faces the looming dangers in their own worlds — Anna and Omeir in 15th-century Constantinople, Seymour and Zeno in present-day Idaho, and Konstance a century or so in the future living on a ship flying through space — a story about the interconnectedness of all things in the universe unfolds, leaving you somehow feeling both deep despair and endless hope all at once.
Far from a beach read, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a beautiful novel that takes a bit of time to get into, but rewards those who persevere with a dazzling story that will stick with them for some time.
[A] story about the interconnectedness of all things in the universe unfolds, leaving you somehow feeling both deep despair and endless hope all at once.
“The things that look fixed in the world, child — mountains, wealth, empires — their permanence is only an illusion. We believe they will last, but that is only because of the brevity of our own lives.”
Go into this one ready to pay attention and keep names and timelines locked in your memory. It takes a good chunk of time to understand all of the different stories and how they connect to the tale of Aethon searching for Cloud Cuckoo Land, but if you power through, you’ll become hooked.
Where You Should Read It
Take Cloud Cuckoo Land somewhere quiet so you can concentrate and really relish in its intricacies.
Read This If You Like . . .
All the Light We Cannot See, stories within stories, books with multiple timelines and main characters, hopeful tales about the human experience.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Prompt(s)
This novel can check off more than one 2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt; just pick the one that fits best for you.
- A book that’s published in 2021
- A book set in multiple countries
- A book about a social justice issue (climate change)
- A book by an author who shares your zodiac sign (Scorpio)
How Long It Takes to Read
At 640 pages, this book took me more than 13 hours to read over the course of a week or so. There are many main characters and a story running within the story, so it takes your brain a minute to sort out who’s who, when they live, where they live, and other important details.
Give This Book to . . .
Your friend who doesn’t mind being handed a 640-page book as you gush, “You have to read this as quickly as possible so we can talk about it!”
The Sweet-Spot Summary
Cloud Cuckoo Land tells the stories of five interconnected characters — outcasts living in present-day Idaho, in Constantinople in the 15th century, and on an interstellar ship decades from now — who have all been touched in some way by the tale of Aethon, who seeks to find a supposed utopian paradise in the sky called Cloud Cuckoo Land. As the reader is guided through Aethon’s story within the story, the rest of the novel follows Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance as they face the anxieties of the world’s looming and current dangers in a story that is ultimately about redemption and the power of hope.
📖 + ☁️ + 🌎