First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
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.
Happy Friday everyone! Today is the first Friday of the second month of the year. Who’d have thought that time would fly that fast? Still, it did feel like a lot has happened in January. I can totally relate with the meme making its round in social media that January kind of felt like an entire year. HAHA! Nevertheless, I hope that the rest of 2022 will be kinder to everyone, that it will be brimming with hope, healing, and recovery. With 11 more months to go, I hope that 2022 will be a great year for everyone. I hope that the pandemic will end soon so that we can resume our lives if that is even possible. I am optimistic that we are nearly at the end of the tunnel that has engulfed us these past two years. On a more personal note, I pray that you are all doing well, in body, mind, and spirit.
With the weekend waving, I hope that you have ended the work week on a high note. If not, I hope the weekend gives you your badly needed reprieve. However, before I could sashay into the weekend, let me close the work week with a new First Impression Friday update. Before 2021 ended, I resolved to catch up on my 2021 reading list. Reading all the books published in 2021 in my possession was supposed to be my 2021 year-ender. Unfortunately, I fell short, hence, the ongoing reading catchup. Thus far, my reading journey has been a successful one, if I have to say so myself. I immersed myself in the works of both familiar and unfamiliar writers. I have been on a roll, regaining the reading momentum I have lost towards the end of 2021; I have completed eleven books already. My current read is Anthony Doerr’s latest novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land. My twelfth novel for the year, it is also my second novel by Doerr.
It was in 2016 that I first came across the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of All The Light We Cannot See. I was enchanted by All The Light We Cannot See’s book cover that I made it part of my 2017 Top 20 Reading List (my first such list). I appreciated the message of the novel, however, I found the execution a little lacking, especially on the pacing. It was because of this that I was initially apprehensive about obtaining a copy of and reading Cloud Cuckoo Land. However, my mind changed after reading what the novel was about. Compared to Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library (an equally overly hyped book that I have yet to read), Cloud Cuckoo Land was marketed as a book about libraries, and, well, books. This piqued my curiosity, hence, the book’s inclusion in my 2022 Top 2022 Reading List.
One of the things that stood out about the book was its thickness. It is quite lengthy, something that rarely bothers me when I read books. I have just started reading Cloud Cuckoo Land and I am unable to offer much more details about the story. From what I have read so far, I have noted that it shared some similarities with All The Light We Cannot See. The first shared element is that both books have children (with the exception of Cloud Cuckoo Land’s Zeno) as main characters. Each character also presented a distinct storyline and the story hops in and out of these different storylines. Having two was already a challenge, what more with five? Despite this, I think I will be able to catch up with the story. Unlike Werner and Marie-Laure, each of the five storylines in Cloud Cuckoo Land was comprised of more solid descriptions and narrations.
Apart from the heftier descriptions, the time device in Doerr’s latest novel is strikingly different from his Pulitzer Prize-winning work. Cloud Cuckoo Land has characters in the contemporary and some in the mid-1400s. Weaving in and out of different time periods can adversely affect the story. I hope this won’t be the case. It is interesting to see how Doerr plays with this element. On top of this, I am more excited to learn about the characters, their motivations, and more importantly, their growth and development over the course of the narrative. I am also excited to see how their stories meld with the story of books and libraries. With over 500-pages more, the convergence of all these different elements makes me look forward to the story.
How about you fellow reader? What book are you digging into this weekend? I hope you get to enjoy it! For now, happy reading! Have a great weekend ahead!