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Book of Clouds

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  922 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Book of Clouds is a haunting, masterfully wrought debut novel about a young woman adrift in Berlin, where a string of fateful encounters leads to romance, violence, and revelation. Having escaped her overbearing family a continent away, Tatiana settles in Berlin and cultivates solitude while distancing herself from the city's past. Yet the phantoms of Berlin--seeping in th ...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 2009)
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 ·  922 ratings  ·  173 reviews

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Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pub-2009
Reading this was like lying on the grass and watching clouds. After two hours nothing truly happened, although something beautiful transpired and you feel like a poet.

As the back cover would tell you ‘Book of Clouds’ is about a Mexican woman adrift in Berlin. I quite liked that this immigrant story did not include the British/American perspective. The world Tatiana came from and the world she came to are both foreign worlds to a regular British or American. Aridjis successfully married off Lati
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Why did this get magnificent reviews--a young / pretty author? So much of the writing was not good, the scenes obvious constructs.
Sep 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Book of Clouds is the story of an ex-pat Mexican woman living an aimless existence in Berlin. The writing is poetic at times but often veers in the direction of pointless neurosis. The main character, Tatiana, is mildly interesting but as the story goes on, it becomes obvious that she's loveless and bored in nearly every aspect of her life. The sex scene is described in such exceedingly chaste terms that it appears the author was shy or uncomfortable writing it. There are moments of beauty in th ...more
L.A. Starks
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A wonderful meditation, with a Mexican protagonist, set in scenic Berlin.

Recommended for readers who like literary fiction and/or Berlin.
May 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
After a few chapters I thought: a ghost story. And indeed at the end the narrator notes that "there was little difference between clouds and shadows and other phenomena given shape by the human imagination."

Is there any substance to this story? It's not just that Tatiana sees and feels and hears ghosts; every action, every thought, every word seems haunted by the past and the horrors of humanity. There is no anchor, no context to make anything real. Changes are too vast and unpredictable to find
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ggi-bookclub
While there are some beautiful passages that I felt read true about my own experiences in Germany, the book lacked momentum and I wasn't fond of the narrators complacency, which oftentimes came across as mopey or listless. Tatiana's clouds or dreams or delusions, or whatever you want to call them, weren't interesting enough to make me feel connected to this "slice of life" story.
Aug 20, 2011 rated it liked it
A very quiet, meditative book about a Mexican woman adrift in Berlin. Tatiana is alienated from her family and her friends, cut off from the rest of the city, uninterested in forming a relationship with anyone. She gets a part-time job doing transcription work for a historian, goes on a few lacklustre dates with a fairly nondescript meteorologist, becomes slightly obsessed with a mentally ill woman, avoids her neighbours, develops insomnia. The book meanders along like this for most of the 200 p ...more
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing

"Book of Clouds" is one of the must-reads of 2009. As Wendy Lesser wrote in The New York Times, "First novels by young writers who see the world with a fresh, original vision and write about it with clarity and restraint are rare enough to begin with. When you add in the fact that Chloe Aridjis’ “Book of Clouds” is also a stunningly accurate portrait of Berlin, as well as a thoughtful portrayal of a young Mexican Jew drifting through her life abroad, this novel becomes required reading of the mo
Jun 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
oh my god this book is terrible! only the author's extremely privileged personal connections (her dad is a super-big-deal mexican writer and diplomat) could POSSIBLY explain the positive critical attention this godawful book has gotten. it is dishonest, badly written schlock catering to an uninformed american audience that wants to think berlin = impossibly low rents + edgy nightlife + nazis nazis nazis still everywhere. ignore the gushing ny and la times reviewers and check out jessica joffe's ...more
Lee Razer
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-fiction
Essentially a brooding, atmospheric illumination of the city of Berlin. The city is certainly the co-main character of the novel, at least, and it feels here like a dark, dense stain sinking into the fabric of the universe. It is the shadowed spot left on the wall of the empty apartment above the protagonist that is not covered up even when a new tenant arrives to rehabilitate the space. It is the secret underground bowling alley of the Nazis, or the Stasi, it makes little difference which, wher ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book freaked me out a bit at parts as I celebrated 5 years in Hamburg while reading about the main character having spent 5 years in Berlin. I enjoyed the parts of life in Germany as I could so closely relate; however, at times it was also tedious because I felt like I was reading about parts of my every day life which I try to escape through reading! A lovely little book though though.
Mary Warnement
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I can sum the book up in one word: implausible.

There's the fact the protagonist has lived in Berlin five years and hasn't met anyone who sticks with her. The book is also littered with words nobody uses in real life (at one point a character says 'Look at those noctilucent clouds'. They are a cloud expert, but you wouldn't just drop that into conversation without explaining yourself... this is just one example of the wooden dialogue featured in the book). Then the magical realism bit at the end
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
A supremely boring book that postures like that’s one of its selling points—that the reader’s experience trudging through the mud of its pseudo-academic “big ideas” (unreconciled histories, imagined etymology of weather phenomena [wtf?], ghosts) is supposed to be meditative, etc. etc.

I read her novel Asunder and found it slightly more striking. Not sure if I’ll get around to seeing what her latest, Sea Monsters, is all about.
Simon Freeman
Jan 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
Writing novels is an art not a science. This book reads like an assignment on a economics course nota novel. Rarely have I read anything with such turgid prose, frankly laughable symbolism and utterly laughable description.

The book is a fraud
Robert Wechsler
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This debut novel is a masterpiece of observation. It could be described as an odd travelogue of contemporary Berlin, but I don’t usually go for travelogues, even odd ones. Aridjis brings to this short novel not only a mastery of observation, but also a pace and tone that are very special. When things happen, they can happen suddenly, and chapters can end in media res. Aridjis likes to keep the reader off balance, and she does so successfully, at least for this reader.
Yentl Reynders
The most uneventful book I’ve read in a long time.
A Reader
Mar 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Berlin: A city that ran on its chronometric scale on a Book of Clouds

While I was in Paris, I went to a book reading at the bookstore Shakespeare & Company. The place was completely packed with books and people and the atmosphere was warm and friendly. The magical environment of Shakespeare & Co., and the good wine certainly contributed to the success of this enjoyable evening.

The author Chloe Aridjis read from her debut novel “Book of Clouds.” I bought the book the same evening and I read it few
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 added it
Shelves: mexican
When inadequate imagination leads the reader out of the book and to the author

"Book of Clouds" is well enough observed, paced, and structured. It has some ingredients of a good novel: but it's trite, and the reason for its triviality is a strange lacuna in the author's imagination of her main character. The Mexican woman who wanders around Berlin, taking pleasure in riding the S-Bahn, in long walks, and in the weather, is a habitually solitary person. She isn't often lonely, but even after five
Jun 07, 2012 rated it liked it
My missus was given this as a present by a friend who'd recently moved back to London, having spent six months in Berlin. We're not entirely unfamiliar with Berlin ourselves: we spent a few days there a couple of summers ago, and said friend showed us around.

The missus didn't much like the book, and she warned me I wouldn't either, but I wanted to read something that wasn't set in the UK or US, and all of the local bookshops were closed for the extended bank holiday weekend, so I was stuck with
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is lovely, it's prose in places as light as the clouds of the title, in places as dark. It's hard to know what other readers would make of it and whether to recommend it due to it's strong reliance on the topography of Berlin to create it's story and moods.

I love Berlin, adore it, and I found myself mentally walking it's pathways whilst reading the book, finding myself in the grey shadow of the Fernsehturm or the more bohemian setting of Prenzlauer Berg. From the Geisterbahnhof (ghost
Mar 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Book of Clouds is well-written, in that it employs some beautiful metaphors and intriguing turns of phrase. The author plays with language to great effect. The story may ring true to anyone who has studied abroad, and certainly I now know more about the German transit system than I ever expected to know. The problem with the novel is conflict. There really isn't any, or at least none sufficiently compelling to necessitate the novel's existence. The only questions posed get answered without ever ...more
Kasey Jueds
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Admired this without loving it... though some pages/passages I really did adore. It's definitely not everyone's cup of tea: extremely interior and meditative, and not big on plot. I usually like those things, and, like I said, I was swept away by some sections; the narrator's voice is so strange and unlike anything else I've ever encountered in fiction; she's believably and (to me) sympathetically neurotic and obsessive and all her emotions are thoroughly ambiguous. And the descriptions of Berli ...more
Sorayya Khan
Aug 10, 2016 rated it liked it
It's true, not much happens in this novel. The story is served as much by Berlin as a city and the secrets it holds as it is by Tatiana, the protagonist. To me, the novel is about the solitariness of exile, even if it is chosen in the specific way the narrator has made it hers. Tatiana floats from her apartment down the stairs to the street, on the chair on which she transcribes a historian's interviews, in the underground tunnels that hold secrets of the past. The book is more sketch than story ...more
Elvira Atvara
I bought this book only because the review on the back promised me Murakami-like experience. Even though I can see how Aridjis's writing is similar to Murakami's and although I enjoyed her novel, I couldn't help noticing that my mind wandered during some passages, as if the words and their meaning were not strong enough to hold my attention, something I never experienced with Murakami.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Moving account of a city rich in history told by an ex-pat in Berlin after the fall of the wall. Still mulling over the richness of the imagery and the larger implications of the symbolism of the clouds.
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
This was annoying. Rambling. Boring plot. Nothing to grab onto. Okay writing, but not amazing.

And since I read this yonks ago I can't remember the details.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book. But if you have never lived in Berlin, don't speak German, and don't want to read a book that is essentially a woman's day dreams as she wanders through a city alone, this is likely not for you. If you have, you will absolutely love the first 2/3s of this book. If you happened to live in Prenzlauer Berg in the early 2000s, and, say, if you spent too much time transferring trains at Alexanderplatz, or happened to wander into the Wasserturm for an art s ...more
Erica Knox
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Chloe Aridjis was born in New York and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico City. After receiving a BA from Harvard, she went on to receive a PhD from Oxford University. A collection of essays on Magic and Poetry in Nineteenth-century France was released in 2005. Her first novel, Book of Clouds, followed in 2009, winning the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France.

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“After five years I still had the impulse, every ten to twelve months, to find a new home. Spaces became too familiar, too elastic, too accommodating. Boredom and exasperation would set in. And though of course nothing really changed from one roof to another, I liked to harbor the illusion that small variations occurred within, that with each move something was being renewed.” 32 likes
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