Cloud Cuckoo Land spans three different narratives and thousands of years.

By Seija Rankin
January 22, 2021 at 09:00 AM EST
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Credit: Scribner

Anthony Doerr fans can appreciate a substantial plot. His most recent novel, 2014's All the Light We Cannot See, explored the destruction and trauma wreaked on Europe by World War II and German occupation through two competing story lines: one about a blind girl forced to flee with her family from Paris to the Brittany coast, the other about an orphaned boy who enters a military academy and becomes a tracker for the Resistance. The effort won him legions of new fans and the Pulitzer Prize, and now the author returns six years later with another Herculean effort.

EW is exclusively announcing that Doerr's next novel is Cloud Cuckoo Land, which spans three different narratives and thousands of years: the 1453 siege of Constantinople, following characters Anna and Omeir as they navigate life on opposite sides of the city's wall; present-day Idaho as teenage Seymour and elderly Zeno experience an attack on a local public library; and far into the future, as Konstance barrels on a spaceship towards an exoplanet. All three timelines have a connection, of course, but we'll let you read the book for that. The novel won't hit shelves until Sept. 28, but in addition to the book's cover (above), we have an excerpt to give you a taste — read on for more of Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Excerpt from Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr

Anna

On the Fourth Hill of the city we call Constantinople, but which the inhabitants at the time simply called the City, across the street from the convent of Saint Euphemia, in the once-great embroidery house of Nicholas Kalaphates, lives an orphan named Anna. She does not speak until she's three. Then it's all questions all the time.

"Why do we breathe, Maria?"

"Why don't horses have fingers?"

"If I eat a raven's egg will my hair turn black?"

"Does the moon fit inside the sun, Maria, or is it the other way around?"

The nuns at Saint Euphemia call her Monkey because she's always climbing their fruit trees, and the Fourth Hill boys call her Mosquito because she won't leave them alone, and the Head Embroideress, Widow Theodora, says she ought to be called Hopeless because she's the only child she has ever known who can learn a stitch one hour and completely forget it the next.

Anna and her older sister, Maria, sleep in a one-window cell off the scullery barely large enough for a horsehair pallet. Between them they own four copper coins, three ivory buttons, a patched wool blanket, and an icon of Saint Koralia that may or may not have belonged to their mother. Anna has never tasted sweet cream, never eaten an orange, and never set foot outside the city walls. By the time she turns thirteen, every person she knows will be either enslaved or dead.

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