Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Scribner
  • Published : 28 Sep 2021
  • Pages : 640
  • ISBN-10 : 1982168439
  • ISBN-13 : 9781982168438
  • Language : English

Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel

Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award, longlisted for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal, and the instant New York Times bestseller!

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes the highly anticipated Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Set in Constantinople in the fifteenth century, in a small town in present-day Idaho, and on an interstellar ship decades from now, Anthony Doerr’s gorgeous third novel is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope—and a book. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Doerr has created a magnificent tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us, and with those who will be here after we’re gone.

Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.

Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.

Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of gravest danger. Their lives are gloriously intertwined. Doerr’s dazzling imagination transports us to worlds so dramatic and immersive that we forget, for a time, our own. Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Anthony Doerr and CLOUD CUCKOO LAND


A Most Anticipated Pick by the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Time, Entertainment Weekly, People, Parade, USA Today, Thrillist, Minneapolis Star-Tribune,, Buzzfeed, Good Morning America,, EOnline, PopSugar, Country Living, The Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, The Week, Bustle, HeyAlma, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fortune, BookRiot, LitHub, Good Housekeeping, The Millions, B&N Reads, AARP, Chicago Tribune

""Whether in the form of ink on a printed page, pixels on a screen, or in some medium we have yet to imagine, the task of preserving books is among the most noble in humanity's history. Anthony Doerr has paid that task a worthy homage."
-Book Reporter

"If you're looking for a superb novel, look no further." 
-Bethanne Patrick, 
Washington Post

"In Cloud Cuckoo Land, [Doerr] writes a marvel of a story himself, filled with gorgeous language and distinctive characters. He sweeps readers in and gives us the enveloping experience of living in another world. . . . [A] great novel."
-Maureen Corrigan, Wall Street Journal

"[Cloud Cuckoo Land is] a wildly inventive novel that teems with life, straddles an enormous range of experience and learning, and embodies the storytelling gifts that it celebrates. . . . A humane and uplifting book for adults that's infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences."
-Marcel Theroux, New York Times Book Review

 "Anthony Doerr is not just a master of storytelling. He is, arguably, a magician. . . . There's no need to dream of a beautiful land, up above the clouds, to escape 2021 for a few hours. Anthony Doerr's magic, captured in the pages of this thrilling, lovely, deeply satisfying book, will take you there."
-Gail Pennington, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Of all our contemporary fiction writers, Anthony Doerr is the one whose novels seem to be the purest response to the primal request: tell me a story. . . . [Cloud Cuckoo Land] transports us far above the stars, and down into the mud. It dazzles, and disturbs. And I for one wanted Doerr's vast and overwhelming story to last much, much longer."
-Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air 

"Sprawling and ambitious and imaginative. . . .  [...

Readers Top Reviews

Linda Fulcher
Magical; lovely language; absorbing. Even better than All the Light We Cannot See. Recommend highly.
Alan Redrup
It was worth every minute of putting the pieces together in the beginning. How beautifully and creatively he weaves the tales of this story into one beautiful whole with an amazing ending which wraps them all up into one beautiful story. Too amazingly creative and wonderful to put into words that are adequate to describe. If you stick with it, you will not be disappointed! Want to read all his books now. This is the 2nd and I can’t wait to read the rest. I read a lot but have never read a more creative and wonderful book than this one. Thank you, Mr. Doerr for sticking with it!
Full disclosure - "All the Light..." is one of my all time favorite books so read this on faith. Lot of moving parts here so hang in there. Story of a disparate group of people who are moved by Greek mythology/books/libraries and those who save them. I was skeptical at first - how is he going to put this all together - put he does and it works. I like the short chapters, it did jump around a lot, it takes some patience. Inventive, clever and different but well done.
This long novel follows multiple characters from different time periods, ultimately weaving their experiences together in a story about the power of stories, and how interconnected we all are. The book has about 622 pages in the digital version. Right from the start the book jumps around to different times and places, introducing you to the main characters. It may be a little challenging to keep up with each of the different groups of characters at first, but stick with it (and take notes if you need to), because things become easier to follow as the book goes on. It becomes clear that the common thread here is that all of the characters have become enthralled with the story of Aethon, a tale written down by an ancient Greek author named Diogenes. Diogenes had himself found the story written down on tablets in a mysterious tomb, and it tells of a man that wished that he could be transformed into a bird in order to reach a mystical utopian city in the sky. Most of the action in the story takes place in three different time periods: the siege of Constantinople in 1453, a library in Idaho in the present day, and aboard an interstellar ship in the future. Doerr jumps back and forth, describing the conflicts and difficult situations that these characters face, while slowly fleshing out the similarities and describing how Aethon's story affects each of them. This is a fairly long book and it took a while to finish, but the pacing was so good that it never really felt boring. I was slightly more invested in the story of Konstance and her futuristic journey than the other characters, but there was enough action and character development that kept me interested throughout the book. The author makes some great points in this book, and connects everything together in a very clever and well written story. I also like how the stories were wrapped up, although the way Konstance's part is concluded was a little less satisfying than the others for me. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I feel like it is somewhat of a love letter to writers, readers, and librarians; and a excellent story about the power of stories. We all might be more similar than we think after all.
It only happens about once every 15 or 20 years: Poisonwood Bible. Lonesome Dove. Now Cloud Cuckoo Land: a book that I will talk about forever, a book that changed the way I think about the world. How much should I write? There is a magic in discovering it for yourself, how all these pieces fit together to answer the most essential question we are all facing in 2021: is the world ending? And if so, how do we go on? Anthony Doerr addresses this question in no expected ways: by telling the story of Anna, an orphan living behind the walls of Constantinople under siege in 1409, who climbs a rock wall to discover hidden treasures; Omeir, a "demon" boy with a cleft palate, who is conscripted into the invading army because of the strength of his beloved oxen Tree and Moonlight; the story of Seymour in Idaho 2020, a budding environmental terrorist after the loss of his beloved great owl friend; and of Zeno, an 86 year old man hiding in the library as Seymour plants his bomb; and of Konstance, on a space station hundreds of years after the end of Earth, hurtling towards a planet that she will never live to see. And interwoven among them all, a myth of Aegon, the shepherd who longs for a better world, who sets off to find that elusive Eden in the sky, Cloud Cuckoo Land. It reads like three stories in one; the story of Constantinople, Omeir and Anna; of Idaho, Zeno and Seymour, and of the space station, with Konstance; and amidst them all, the myth of Aegon. There is writing so gorgeous that I had to stop and read it again; writing, especially, about the power of story itself, how stories can be magic, can save our lives, can give our lives meaning. Above all else, this is a story about our longing for a better world, what we owe to each other in this one, and whether it is possible -- even a little bit possible --- to hope, in the face of unimaginable hardship, that a better world might still exist, maybe even, possibly, not so far away as Cloud Cuckoo Land, not so far away as the clouds in the sky.