‘m a pretty good writer. I can lighten the mood of terrible things. And I can chastise people yet leave them smiling.
But I don’t think I can write an adequate review for Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr.
All I can say is, well, I know what one of my best-of-year selections will be.
This wonderful book reminds me, in a lot of ways, of Cloud Atlas. Again, you have different characters in different times, all just getting through their lives yet all interrelated in some ways. It was there in Atlas, but it’s the driving force behind this novel.
So you have a wide span of characters. There is someone who wrote the the “Cloud Cuckoo Land” story for his daughter as he slowly died (and it was buried with him in a tomb in Tyre). Then there is Anna, an orphan, who is huddled behind the walls of doomed Constantinople. Outside those same walls is an ox driver named Omeir, impressed into the Saracen army, disfigured by a birth defect. And then, in near-our-time, aging Zeno helps direct a play in a local library while Seymour, a disturbed youth, attempts to smuggle in a nail bomb, guided by anti-societal online propaganda (with its seed of truth wrapped in radicalism). And if that is not enough, there is young Konstance, a passenger on a colony / generation ship bearing she and her crew mates to a far-away planet.
And so the seed is set. All of these characters are engaged in the run-up to crisis. All of them will tested, and some will die. But like watching a spiderweb being slowly dusted by morning dew, you’ll start to see the connections, the links, and just shake your head at the wonderment of this book.
I gave it to my wife and while it’s not her thing, she actually read it and teared up in places.
I don’t want to say anything else, because everything is a spoiler. You should read it. Or listen to it. Or whatever. But if you miss out, well, you only have yourself to blame.