Cloud Cuckoo Land

Posted on February 26, 2022

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As the ongoing target of Trump’s affection continues to steamroll his way across Ukraine, Life in the Boomer Lane chooses to take this opportunity to discuss something other than politics or the giant cinderblock of climate change that is suspended over our heads. Instead, she will direct her attention to that age-old question, “Have you read a good book lately?”

Why yes,” LBL answers her own question, “that, I have.”

I have just finished Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr, the author of All the Light We Cannot See. I have lost track of how many times I have said to myself and others, “This book is amazing.” It is. It is full-blown amazing. It is a magic carpet ride, the carpet woven out of an 1,800-year-old invented Greek tale, called “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” by Antonius Diogenes. The story, itself, was no more than a fantastical story told to a sick child. But the carpet takes us on the ride of a lifetime. It spans 600 years and thousands of miles. Simply put, it is a love letter to books.

The characters are diverse as they can be. Their stories seemingly have nothing in common: a Greek orphan in Constantinople in 1453, a young Bosnian boy in 1453 with cleft palate, an aging Korean War vet, an autistic boy, a young girl whose life has been spent mostly in one room in a spaceship. It is the manuscript of this invented tale that guides them, nurtures them, gives their lives meaning, and ultimately gives them the strength and the vision to rise above the constrictions of their lives. Interspersed throughout the book are snippets of the actual story found in the manuscript.

I am reminded of The Overstory, by Ricard Powers, a love letter to trees, that was constructed in a similar way, although in one time frame. That, also, was a great book. Like that one, Cloud Cuckoo Land will stay with me forever.

A PS: I have seen and heard this book described as sci-fi. For those of you averse to sci-fi, it isn’t. There is only one story woven throughout that could be under the sci-fi category. That story is integral to the rest. It does not define the book.

Posted in: book review, books