Fantasy, Sci Fi

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

It was near impossible to avoid hearing about this book before its release. I found it mentioned in places that I do not usually use to find my next-to-read books. When I saw it at my library as a hardcover, I brought it home and sat down with it. There was a discolouration thanks to some previous user that put me off a little, but it was not the only reason I found it hard to read and had to ultimately return it unread. When I saw the new paperback last month, I decided to give it another shot, and for the first time ever, I think I found the paperback read to be a better experience!
This is one of those books that fall under the sweeping narration category. The reason I found it tough going initially is that there are too many branches of the story. This adds a certain gravitas to the second half of the book (if one can find a way to divide the book into two appropriate halves), but when one starts to read, some amount of concentration is required.
I am usually a fast reader – this means I let the story wash over me and do not hold on to nuances in names and such. I give them a face and attach their character, which morphs through the story based on the events that occur and keep going. I do not even try to voice the names out. This time around, I wanted to ensure I tried my best to alter my approach, and it worked!
I finished this book on a short trip to Spain. I read it on planes and trains and was surprised at the progress I made once I could parse all the information into the required brackets before they overlapped.
One portion of the book is in the future, on a vessel bound for another habitable planet with a small crew. We only meet one girl, alone, trying to decipher a story that seems to call out to her. We will see both her past and future as two separate pieces. In the extreme past, we have two different individuals on differing sides of a war cursed (in a way) by their birth. Their story progresses slowly and is not as connected to the story of the cloud cuckoo land as overtly as the space one or the one based in Idaho. In Idaho, two lonely boys are drawn to the library at different times in the storyline. Ultimately Cloud Cuckoo Land is the plotline that sustains hope throughout the entire set of ordeals everyone faces.
I found the ending quite startling. I had settled myself in the gradual flow of the stories, walking with the people when the ending twists reared their faces. I should have been jarred or even annoyed by the way things were, but surprisingly, I wasn’t.
In this book, I felt the power of the author’s writing skills and narrative style much more than in the other work of his that I have read. The book is written in such a manner that it can easily be read by teenagers as well!
I highly recommend this book (and the patience it initially requires) to anyone who wants to read something different. I saw an interview with the author a long time ago as he talked about keeping the strings of the stories separate as he wrote them. He did a great job on the end product, and I am extremely glad I gave this another shot. I do not give it a full five stars solely because of the time and energy it took me to get going. If there were half stars, I would have given it a 4.5.


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