Oh my goodness what a fine, fine book! It’s like something between David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Richard Powers’ Overstory.
Cloud Cuckoo Land
By Anthony Doerr
2021 / 637 pages
Read by Marin Ireland & Simon Jones
Rating: 10 – 21st century fiction
(Both read and listened)
I got about 1/2 way through and realized this was really good (!) so I started over and took notes and they turned out to be copious notes, in fact, because that slows me down and makes me contemplate each chapter a minute or two. In doing that I read, listened and wrote until I feel I have enough knowledge of the book to give it a 10. (I don’t usually give 10s unless I’ve read a book twice. I’ll give a 9.5 is if a book is so good I really want and intend to read it again, if I feel I really should read it again to fully appreciate it. And I often do exactly that with those books. But this time I feel like I gave the book what it deserves.
So what’s it about? It’s a about lots of “amazing” things. It’s about the many ways of telling stories – from just telling them orally like myths with a live audience of kids to reading them and writing them in various forms like translations, poetry, plays and novels right up to making video games of them (but not much of that or movies). It’s about libraries which are full of stories including libraries from the days of Constantinople to now and in the future. And it’s about books without libraries to keep them safe.
It’s also about the many ways the earth and its beautiful living creatures and plants are being destroyed.
And it’s about love and family and language and reading and stories back to Aesop or before (to Diogenes and prior) . It’s about storytelling back to the days before the Saracens attacked Constantinople in 1453.
It takes place in Idaho, in Korea, in Constantinople and out in the galaxies. It takes place in 1452 and ’53, in the early 1950s, in 2020, and in 2146 (or so). There’s one storyteller who originates in the days of the Greek storytellers and fabulists.
Zeno, Seymour, Anna and Konstance are the main characters of the plot threads while Aethon is probably the main storyteller with his own story to tell. Yes, there are 5 (five) plot threads occurring in 4 different time frames with 4 very different locations. But Doerr manages to keep them separate until it’s time to weave them together.
This is an ode to stories and storytellers in all their various forms and formats right up to and including the librarians of the world.