ARC provided by Goodreads & the publisher—Scribner—in exchange for an honest review.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Historical fiction, Science fiction, Literary fiction
Pages: 656 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 28th September 2021 by Scribner
Cloud Cuckoo Land is more ambitious and complex than All the Light We Cannot See in every possible way.
It’s hard not to compare Doerr’s newest book to his previous immensely successful work: All the Light We Cannot See. And if I’m not mistaken, Cloud Cuckoo Land is the first novel that Doerr published since the release of All the Light We Cannot See; that’s seven years ago. I enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, but honestly speaking, despite its insane success and praises, I never felt inclined to give Doerr’s work another try. But the premise and dedication just captured my attention so much, and now that I’ve read it, I am pretty sure that Doerr’s newest work, Cloud Cuckoo Land, will be another beloved bestseller worldwide.
“The world we’re handing our kids brims with challenges: climate instability, pandemics, disinformation. I wanted this novel to reflect those anxieties, but also offer meaningful hope, so I tried to create a tapestry of times and places that reflecs our interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with the ones who lived before us, and the ones who will be here after we’re gone.”—Anthony Doerr
The passage above by Doerr himself has clearly states what the themes of the book are about. In addition to that, Cloud Cuckoo Land is dedicated to the librarians then, now, and in the years to come. It’s an apt dedication; Cloud Cuckoo Land is at its core a book about connections. It shows how an action or a book could affect the lives of people across multiple generations. It also shows how we remain connected with one another even long after we’re gone. And told through five main POV characters, I believe the text in Cloud Cuckoo Land will affect many future readers of this book.
“Repository… you know this word? A resting place. A text—a book—is a resting placefor the memories of people who have lived before. A way for the memory to stay fixed after the soul has traveled on.”
I loved the concept, premise, and messages of the book, but unfortunately, I will have to say that I do have mixed feelings regarding the characters and writings. As I said, Cloud Cuckoo Land is told through the perspective of five characters: Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance. Out of all of these, my favorites were Omeir’s and Zeno’s storyline; I felt that they were the most engaging. I did, however, struggled with getting interested in Anna’s and Seymour’s storyline. It shouldn’t be that way, especially for Anna because Anna and Omeir reminded me of Marie and Werner from All the Light We Cannot See. But it did happen, and I think I can pinpoint this to the way the prose is delivered.
“Each sign signifies a sound, and to link sounds is to form words, and to link words is to construct worlds.”
Doerr writes beautifully, and in this ambitious and complex novel, I wish the chapters—not all of them—were longer. With five POV characters that jump back and forth in time, things can get pretty confusing at times. But personally, my biggest issue with Cloud Cuckoo Land is that I found the POV chapters changing too quickly to my liking before I even get invested in the said character’s story. This was the same in All the Light We Cannot See; each chapter was so short, but in that novel, we have only two characters to follow. Here, we have five POV characters, with such short chapters, it was hard for me to connect with the characters. Also, similar to the prose in All the Light We Cannot See, there’s a lot of metaphors used that I couldn’t fully click with; they took me out of Doerr’s beautiful writing rather than engrossed me.
“Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you.”
I did struggle quite a lot reading through the middle section of Cloud Cuckoo Land, and I won’t lie that I’ve thought of putting it down for good several times. But just like the strong first quarter, the final 20% of Cloud Cuckoo Land delivered a strong conclusion. Although I liked it, I’m confident that many readers will love it more than I did.
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