Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr is a mosaic of a novel with bits of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi fiction storytelling all in one. The book is narrated by 5 different characters in 3 different timelines:
- Anna (a young girl in 15th century Constantinople while it is under siege by the Ottoman Empire)
- Omeir (a young boy who is conscripted by the Ottoman Empire for its attack on Constantinople)
- Zeno (a present-day Korean War vet who helps children create a play at the local library)
- Seymour (a nature-loving teen who plants a bomb in the library in an attempt to impress a bioterrorism group)
- Konstance (a young girl in the future who is aboard the spaceship Argos on a journey to a new Earth-like planet when a mysterious disease strikes)
All the narrations have one connecting thread: the ancient Greek story, “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Antonius Diogenes (a fictional story that Doerr bases on real ancient Greek texts). While a seemingly silly tale of a man who wishes to be a bird to visit a golden city in the sky, the story nonetheless brings comfort to the 5 narrators who are facing war, illness, loneliness, and the consequences of actions both personal and societal.
Having loved Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, I was very excited to read Cloud Cuckoo Land and it did not disappoint! While this was not a quick read for me, it was fascinating to watch the 5 different storylines slowly weave together. Some readers may be put off by the multiple characters and timelines, but those who stick with the book will be richly rewarded when everything comes together in the end. I would recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction and speculative fiction or anyone who is a self-proclaimed bibliophile.