Published On: Sat, Sep 25th, 2021

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr: A timeless tale | Books | Entertainment

It’s a subject he’s eminently qualified to write about as his previous novel, the heartstring-tugging Second World War saga All The Light We Cannot See (2014), has brightened countless readers’ lives and is already established as a modern classic.

That was certainly an ambitious book but, here, Doerr makes you dizzy with the scale of his vision as it spans several centuries, continents and even galaxies.

But if the central characters are far apart in time and space, one thing unites them… their fascination with a book called Cloud Cuckoo Land, a comic tale from the 1st century AD about a doltish shepherd searching for Utopia.

As well as providing plentiful extracts from this book, Doerr tells us the stories of various readers who are in love with it.

There is Anna, a young seamstress living in Constantinople in the years leading up to the siege of 1453, who risks beatings by secretly teaching herself to read at night.

Zeno is an old man in present-day Idaho who gets mixed up in a terrorist incident at the library that has nourished him since boyhood.

And Konstance is a 14-year-old girl onboard a spaceship leaving behind an uninhabitable Earth.

You get at least four stories for your money, then, and Doerr constantly nips backwards and forwards between them all. But each of the settings is so solidly and convincingly realised that there’s minimal disorientation.

The novel is a celebration of the way in which books enable us to connect with the past… and a warning about how fragile their survival has always been in a world in which those in power pursue war or harm the environment.

With its interlocking narratives, it bears a family resemblance to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

This engagingly written, big-hearted book is a must-read… immersive popular fiction that breaks boundaries and makes you look at the world a bit differently.

● Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr, Fourth Estate, £20. To order please call the Express Bookshop on 020 3176 3832. Free UK p&p for orders over £20

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