Homer's Travels: Book: Anthony Doerr's "Cloud Cuckoo Land"

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Book: Anthony Doerr's "Cloud Cuckoo Land"

Back in March of 2015 I read "All the Light We Cannot See" and it was one of those books that I liked but I couldn't say why.  I liked it enough to give it a weak five stars on Goodreads.  When I saw that author Anthony Doerr had a new book out I added it to my reading list.

Doerr's "Cloud Cuckoo Land" is very different from his previous book.  It follows five characters through three periods of history (and future).  The order the story is told in is jumbled.  It jumps from one time period to another, from one character to another.  It jumps forward and backward for each of the characters.  The result is a difficult first half until you have have learned enough about the characters to help fit the narrative together in a coherent story.

The Characters are all tied together by a fictional piece of fiction by Greek author Diogenes.  The first pair of characters, tied together by the Ottoman siege on Constantinople, secure the damaged and out of order Diogenes manuscript.  The second pair, a Korean War vet and a disturbed young environmentalist, translate the work, places most of it in the correct order, filling in some gaps with speculation, and ensures its survival.  The last character is a girl in a spaceship who receives knowledge about the book from her father and, while researching it, discovers the truth about her world.

The jumble of the story runs parallel to the jumble of the Diogenes manuscript and the full story and the true meaning all come together in the end.  It is a case of the telling of the story matching the story being told.  Once you realize what the author is doing the latter half of the book moves quickly.  Unfortunately the pay off of the book, like the ending of the Diogenes manuscript, is unclear, subject to speculation, and thus a bit unsatisfying.

One side note.  It was a strange coincidence but I'd read about the Ottoman siege of Constantinople in one of the other books I read this year, "The Ottomans".  It was interesting reading place names that were familiar to me.  Also, we will be travelling to Turkey later this year so there was even more of a connection for me.

I gave his last book a weak five stars.  This book I gave a strong four stars out of five on Goodreads.  If the ending had been better developed it could have been a five but it didn't quite get there for me.

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