Doerr’s novel ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ is a brilliant and magical getaway | Book reviews



Anthony Doerr isn’t just a master of storytelling. He is undoubtedly a magician.

Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for his unforgettable WWII saga “All the Light We Cannot See”, is back with the brilliant and almost indescribable “Cloud Cuckoo Land”.

It is an epic on an even greater scale than its predecessor, an epic that could have taken an ordinary human writer over seven years to produce. It’s massive – 640 pages, but with no wasted syllables – and woven as tightly as a Turkish tapestry.

Remarkably, although it tells the stories of five main characters in three timelines separated by eight centuries, it is never in the least confusing. The only confusing thing might be an attempt to explain it, but there you go.

First of all, the title. “Cloud Cuckoo Land”, coined by the Greek playwright Aristophanes “” The Birds “refers to happy fantasies, impossible dreams that seem ridiculous except to those who desperately want to believe. Here all the characters have reason to seek to escape their situation.

They are connected by a fable woven through the book, in which an Aethon, a poor shepherd, comes to believe in a city of golden palaces, high above the clouds and inhabited only by birds. The fable, in which Aethon accidentally turns into a donkey while aiming to become an owl and soar to this “Cloud Cuckoo Land”, fascinates characters through the centuries. (The tale is attributed to the Greek Diogenes but was actually written by Doerr himself, he told interviewers.)


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