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The Cloud Sketcher: A Novel
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The Cloud Sketcher: A Novel

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  238 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In a tiny village in Finland, Esko Vaananen is at the brink of despair -- he loves a woman he can never have. Suddenly, in the magical light of the aurora borealis, he has a vision of an impossibly tall building rising gracefully from the frozen lake and disappearing into the clouds above him. This pilvenpiirtaja -- "cloud sketcher" or skyscraper -- sparks a lifelong quest ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 19th 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published 2000)
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Mar 24, 2008 Fran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love emotional stories
I don't know why I bought this book, or even if I bought it (or it could have been in a pack of books I bought cheap). It's been on my bookshelf for more than a few months now and in my attempt to read most of the books I have before buying new ones I picked it up. When I read the quote from the Chicago Tribune on the back "no one who opens The Cloud Sketcher will find it easy to stop reading before the last vertiginous page" I worried that the book would be a little too pretentious for me. I me ...more
I don’t hate Esko, but I do find him distasteful. I don’t like his relationship with Katerina, because she’s just not there — as a character, she simply can’t support Esko’s obsession. Esko’s story is told in close, close third person, but all Rayner can do is repeat endlessly how fascinated by Katerina Esko is. But she has no particular quality of any kind that really seems interesting enough. And given the backstory Rayner offers? It seems somewhat obscene. I should care about her, for that ve ...more
Ruth Bonetti
Aug 09, 2014 Ruth Bonetti rated it it was amazing
I'm rereading this book as I was very impressed by it some years ago. It captures the ethos of Finland in the time before and after the Civil War with deft descriptions and touches. Poor Esko! He didn't get a good chance, but he made the most of his gifts.
Mar 19, 2012 Simon rated it it was amazing
The Last book of the trip that I read most of on
the way home was "The Cloud Sketcher" by Richard
Rayner that I pulled of a book shelf at home
before we went away looked at and had no real
memory of getting it, but liked the blurb on the
back and put it in the bag.
Well I can't remember the last 500 page book I
read as quickly as this one. It's a total page
turner of a life and death story of Esko a
Little Finnish boy who grew up dreaming of
building a Cloud Sketcher, which is what the
Finnish wo
Apr 18, 2016 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This book, although it wasn't fantasy had some descriptions that gave it a fantastical feel; bringing a mysterious magic into the story. I liked Esko and Paul Mantillini's characters and although other characters weren't in depth or had many layers they did seem individual and realistic. I didn't like Katerina as I found her on/ off; and I'm not too sure if the author wanted us to like her or not. Sometime the story seemed unthought through and events were a bit out of the blue or didn't contrib ...more
May 07, 2014 Amritha rated it really liked it
A beautiful book, wonder why I never heard about this one anywhere, there is hardly anything on the net, just found a vague interview of the author in a random website that too after a hell lot of searching. I found the book in a filthy second hand book outlet, took it only because it was the only non-pirated book! Strongly recommend it, take a walk through the cool lakes in summers in remote Finnish villages, let architecture come alive like a love affair, see bloodshed, good old passionate lov ...more
Aug 07, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most enjoyable books I have read this year,Richard Rayner`s character Esko Vaananen,is so believable,that if you searched the history books you would find his name somewhere among the pages.
He wont be there!.
This book is about passion,passion for a dream,a woman,a friendship,a political belief,and a future. Esko is someones father,grandfather,great grandfather,he will be in someones family tree,because of him we are were we are today,once you pick this book up you will not want to sto
Tamara Gantt
May 22, 2010 Tamara Gantt rated it it was amazing
I'm on about the fourth chapter and loving this book. Rich characters, unique subjects.

Okay --- I have been thinking about this all morning. How to say how amazing and beautiful this book is --- how well-written, rich, full of depth and variety and skillful use of language and characterization. It isn't getting any easier.

One way that I can attempt it is to make a comparison. I've recently read a nice little Southern book about a more-or-less orphaned girl who goes to live with a rich aunt in Sa
Feb 10, 2011 Joshua rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Greatly enjoyed this novel by Richard Rayner that has a few favorite topics of mine weaving through its epic story of romance--architecture, revolution, civil war, Finland, the mafia, prohibition, more architecture and the 1920s. Set in Finland and New York in the range of 1917 to about 1929 with Rayner packing a lot of action and story in this short span of time--almost too much to be honest. Toward the end with the characters talking about all the time that has passed and it's only been a deca ...more
Aug 31, 2015 Tracey rated it really liked it
Truly a 4 1/2, I could not get enough of this novel! Everything about it captivated me and took me along in vivid, riveting detail. Best of all it kept me guessing. I never could predict or nail down how it would end. I was delighted to read through without a 'knowing instinct'for the outcome and it was such an outcome! My recommendation is to read it.
Marilyn Saul
Apr 15, 2014 Marilyn Saul rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful book, though I got quite annoyed (frequently) with Esko's ridiculous obsession with a most unworthy woman! I learned a lot about architecture and found myself wishing this was not a novel but biographical, so I could go visit the buildings! I also learned about Finland during the Russian Revolution, and I'm amazed at how little I knew about the situation. Excellent writing. I highly recommend this book.
Dorie Schultz
Jul 31, 2015 Dorie Schultz rated it it was amazing
An epic novel spanning one man's life from the early 1900's in Finland to the 20's in New York. Many,many interesting characters and a love that entangles the young man's entire life. I loved learning about the architecture and the constant twists and turns of this novel. It was very special
Aug 10, 2009 Marvin rated it it was amazing
A gripping, emotionally intense, & intellectually powerful novel. A young boy of 11 becomes obsessed with a Russian girl & with a desire to build a skyscraper. The rest of the novel plays out his pursuit of those twin dreams & the many barriers that stand in the way of achieving them, from a Finnish Civil War in the wake of the Russian Revolution to political machinations in the awarding of architectural contracts to Prohibition. As with other books (such as Dr. Zhivago, which this b ...more
Brent Forkner
meh. I thought the subject and setting were so great--turn of the 20th century Finland and the main character seemed compelling--an impoverished, brilliant and crippled young boy!...but the writing is so bad, I just could not get into it. I kept trying, but it plods along. Finally skipped big chunks and skimmed, and really, I'm sorry, just not interested. oh well.
Jun 16, 2007 Bjorn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in architecture
Shelves: katrina-lost, college
I had to read this book before I spent a summer semester in Finland. It is about a Finnish Architect and his quest for beauty. I didn't like The Fountainhead when i read it (maybe will give it another chance) so i was really not sure if this would be good. When he describes the church he is building the prose is beautiful and you can just see the church take shape.

I really did enjoy this book and really got into reading it on the plane to Helsinki. It was done in no time after getting into it. O
Apr 02, 2015 Blaire rated it really liked it
"Great Gatsby" meets "The Fountainhead" (minus Howard's scruples) meets "We the Living". Somebody liked Ayn Rand's character-types when writing this novel.
Kathleen Hulser
Jan 05, 2012 Kathleen Hulser rated it liked it
Tortured architect hero, at his best in lonely youth of frigid Finland forests. Can surfeit of tree trunks and ice chunks give life form? Yup. Great background of border tensions with Russian Revolution, Stalin makes an appearance, and partisan fighting where nationalism, communism mix it up with no clear good guy/bad guy right and left are interesting for those of us (all of us?) who don't know the issues of Finnish independence around WWI. A murder mystery runs through it and a love story, but ...more
Jessie Lalande
Jan 24, 2016 Jessie Lalande rated it really liked it
Jul 17, 2007 krin rated it really liked it
This was a great book of historical fiction set in Finland in the early 1900s and New York City during the jazz age of the 1920s. Reading it, I could almost hear the music playing and the men working on the steel girders of the growing skyscrapers. The characters also came to life with their hopes and fears.
Mar 01, 2010 Freya rated it really liked it
It's a slow start but bear with it...once it gets going, it will capture your attention. Politics, idealism, love, passion, hope, uglienss all merge together in a story of a man who uniquely discovers and creates the world around him even as it changes through war, loss and possibility.
Mar 28, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
I would not have chosen this book from the jacket description, but a friend loaned it to me & I'm so glad she did. While parts of the story were quite predictable like the reappearance of the love interest, there were so many good things about it, I would highly recommend.
Bob Woodley
Jan 31, 2013 Bob Woodley rated it liked it
1920s. Esko fights the Bolsheviks in Finland before fleeing to the USA to be a skyscraper architect. 2 stories fused together with little to link them. Well sketched characters, except for the principal love interest. Historical color. Good pace. Easy to read. An airplane read.
Sep 06, 2012 Anastasia rated it really liked it
very moving... even though it was a big book and a lil bit hard to finish it, the plot was always twisting. another plus for me is that the author described each scene with every little detail. really fascinating
Sep 16, 2008 Darcey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Started slow but got really good after the first section. Interesting characters and historical look at New York in the 1920s especially.
Nov 30, 2013 Romi rated it it was ok
Put it down about 50% of the way through..and that is really saying something. Just can't get through this one at all!
Annelie Rozeboom
Mar 27, 2013 Annelie Rozeboom rated it really liked it
Good writing, but kind of depressing. It's an anything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong kind of book.
Tami Roof
Jan 23, 2008 Tami Roof rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sylvie
Recommended to Tami by: Jennie Barlow
This is a GREAT book!!! Sylvie, if you haven't read this one yet you should; I know you would love it.
Nov 09, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any Romantic
A time period and setting that I love---NY in early 1900's. Prose is elegant and story is beautiful.
Tamara Lohan
Jan 22, 2008 Tamara Lohan rated it really liked it
enjoyed this book alot,it had alot of things going on it.
Nov 10, 2009 Caroline rated it did not like it
GOD AWFUL. Couldn't finish it.
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Richard Rayner is a British author who now lives in Los Angeles. He was born on December 15, 1955 in the northern city of Bradford. Rayner attended schools in Yorkshire and Wales before studying philosophy and law at the University of Cambridge. He has worked as an editor at Time Out Magazine, in London, and later on the literary magazine Granta, then based in Cambridge.

Rayner is the author of ni
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“He saw a cross on a wall with another cross behind it, a shadow cross, the shadow of what God left behind when God was gone, the continued need for joy and beauty, a commitment to hope where there appeared to be none, and to grace in spite of everything.” 4 likes
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