Book Review: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

“But books, like people, die. They die in fires or floods or in the mouths of worms or at the whims of tyrants. If they are not safeguarded, they go out of the world. And when a book goes out of the world, the memory dies a second death.”

Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land

Title: Cloud Cuckoo Land
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genres: Literary, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 626 (Paperback)
Published: September 28th, 2021

My Rating: ★★★¾
Read: 12/26/2022 – 12/31/2022

Review:

A lot of thought went into this book and it shows. At another time I might have been more in a place to absorb the complexity, but as my final read of the year, it had my head spinning a little bit.

Following a number of timelines in the past, present, and future, we are introduced to a handful of characters that represent their time period. What do they have in common? Ancient stories and text. More than anyone else it seems, the story focuses Zeno. We follow him before and during the Korean war as well as the more modern-day setting of 2020. 

To say there is a lot going on in this book is an understatement. The flow was not fantastic jumping across so many characters and time periods and a lot gets lost in the lengthy descriptions and slow-paced, not super eventful plot. I found it thought-provoking, sure, but not altogether exciting. I zoned out toward the end and I don’t feel like I missed anything with my lack of attention to it. 

Overall, I have mixed feelings. There were parts I enjoyed but others where I was bored and trudging through. Even though the chapters are short, the book itself could have been shorter. The beginning was strong but fizzled out somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, this is the kind of book that will very much come down to personal preference. I appreciate the thoughts and ideas presented, I only wish they could have been slightly more to the point and better organized. 

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • Interesting and complex characters.
  • Superb writing.
  • A unique storyline.

What I didn’t like:

  • Complicated to follow.
  • Too large a gap in the timelines.
  • In a strange way, there wasn’t much of a plot.

Afterthoughts:

This definitely isn’t a quick read and I regret only giving myself a small window of time to finish it. This was my final read of 2022 and I like to start the new year fresh. I think I would have appreciated the nuance more if I had taken some time between chapters. I’m going to hold onto it in case I decide to revisit it and go through it slowly.

Where to buy the book:

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