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I am a reader. I read newspapers and magazines and even cereal boxes. I read books of all kinds: fiction; non-fiction; cookbooks; gardening books; reference books. I read reviews. I especially love book reviews, and often seek out books based on a good blurb. Sometimes I start a book that has been waiting on my shelf for a while, and can’t seem to get into it. Then, I’ll go back to the review to remember what made it sound good. That reminder will give me the incentive to plow through a slow beginning.

Though I enjoy reading book reviews, I do not like writing them. I am rarely good at it, so I usually avoid it. However, I finished a book a few weeks ago, and cannot stop thinking about it. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr is the most fascinating book I’ve read in years. It grabbed and held my attention so intensely, I sometimes felt like I couldn’t stand the suspense. I would like to convince everyone to read it!

The characters are likeable and engaging; it is a wonderful story. Beyond that, it feels important. It carries messages that transcend the narrative, about how we treat each other, and the world we inhabit, but it is never preachy.

Cloud Cuckoo Land spans six centuries, and tells the stories of five very different characters. Doerr leads the reader along through the downfall of Constantinople. He shows both sides of the horrors of conquest, through the eyes of those most bitterly effected: a child within the walls of the city, and a young boy conscripted, along with his team of oxen, to prepare for the assault, Another character comes to life in the middle of this country, before the start of World War II. Yet another joins the tale in the 1970s. A final character lives sometime in the not too distant future, within the confines of a spaceship. What links them all together is a story written in ancient Greece, Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Written by Antonius Diogenes as a bedtime tale, it tells the story of Aethon, a man who goes looking for a “utopian city in the sky.” Along the way he has many adventures. He finds himself transformed into a donkey, changed into a fish, swallowed by a sea creature, and on and on until he finally finds his utopia.

The wild, comical and unlikely adventures of Aethon provide a counterpoint to the other tense, sometimes tragic stories. At first, the book seemed a little disjointed, and I thought I’d have a hard time keeping the characters and the story lines straight. I worried for nothing. Though the narrative jumps through hundreds of years, different countries and various civilizations, I had no trouble following along, and becoming totally invested in each of the characters.

It becomes more and more clear, as the tale progresses, that the ancient text is the link between all of the characters. Still, I was amazed and thrilled at how tidily the author gathered up all the different story lines, and stitched them together in to one neat package at the end.

I need to say, too, though there were times I was so immersed in the sadness and troubles I was reading about that I was near despair, this is a hopeful and even a joyous book. Parents are kind; children are wise. Each character struggles, and suffers, but also experiences joy and, in the end, finds redemption. One friend, whose review of this book spurred me to read it, called it a “magic carpet ride.” That’s an apt description! What a delicious feeling to be held in thrall by the pages of a good book!

About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

6 responses »

    • Oh, thank you, Judith, that’s nice to hear. I tried to review this book over the phone to my daughter, and ended up just telling her the whole story, to the point that she has no reason to read it, now, even though I couldn’t begin to do it justice!

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