Rayner, Richard The Cloud Sketcher

ISBN 13: 9780007128327

The Cloud Sketcher

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9780007128327: The Cloud Sketcher

Spanning two continents and three decades, The Cloud Sketcher is an epic tale of love, murder and revenge.

Police stand ready to make an arrest as the Ile de France liner docks at New York Harbour in 1929. The passengers assume that it is notorious bootlegger Paul Mantilini who is to be taken away. But Mantilini walks down the gangplank a free man and instead it is Esko Vaananen the police arrest – a celebrated architect, and by all accounts a shy and mild-mannered young man.

Born a peasant in rural Finland at the turn of the century, Esko, the son of an outcast Bolshevik, dreamed of skyscrapers and of a beautiful and tragic Russian aristocrat named Katerina. His entire life has been spent pursuing and protecting these twin passions, no matter how great the cost. It is a journey that has led him into the battlefields of the Bolshevik revolution and the jazz-age nightclubs of New York City, and finally, to strike a Faustian bargain with a ruthless gangster – all in pursuit of artistic perfection and impossible, unattainable love. And now he stands accused of murder…

A grand and unashamedly romantic literary epic, The Cloud Sketcher moves from the battle of Tampere to the incredible danger of working on ‘the high steel’ of skyscraper shells, from Prohibition to the remarkable intersection of organized crime, finance and the arts in 1920s New York, powerfully evoking an era gone by.

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Review:

The Cloud Sketcher is a rich, intricate and satisfying story, and one for which that clichéd term "sweeping historical epic" is probably the most accurate description. Growing up in rural Finland in 1901, 11-year-old Esko bears scars on his face which he received trying to rescue his mother from their burning house a year before. Bereft and meek, Esko is later left by his political activist father with the local priest, who encourages his early interest in architecture by showing him a picture of the very first lift to be installed in Finland.

One morning, out on the ice, not long after my father had given me to Kalliokoski, I understood why this elevator--any elevator--is important. It means a building can be as tall as you like. As tall as you dare to allow it to be. A skyscraper. The Germans call them wolkenkratzers--cloud scratchers. In Finnish, the word is pilvenpiirtaja--cloud sketcher. I'm going to build one.
As the lift transforms Esko's ambitions, so his brief childhood meeting with Russian aristocrat Katerina at a village fete leads to a stubborn pursuit that encompasses decades and continents. It is his blinkered dreams of a skyscraper, and his ephemeral love for Katerina that drive him through his time fighting in the bloody Finnish Civil War, pursuing his career in Helsinki and achieving his ambitions in crime-ridden prohibition New York. The story has a skilful structure, rich prose and an expressive style, although the author's passion for the subject of architecture can lead to passages occasionally becoming somewhat dry and involved. The plot has moments of predictability, but the story is told with enough style and pathos to make this forgivable. Readers will respond to the quality of the writing and be easily drawn into this rewarding saga. -- Rachel Ediss

Review:

‘No one who opens The Cloud Sketcher will find it easy to stop reading before the last vertiginous page…Passionate and well-researched… remarkable [for] its visceral feeling for architecture… Rayner's eye is excellent.’ Chicago Tribune

‘Irresistible. It delivers surprise after surprise, all the way up to the last page…a complex and absorbing story.’ Time Out New York

‘Breathtaking…a passionate book that threads architecture, war and history through the story of two lovers.’ USA Today

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