Paperback. Pub the Date: March. 2002 Pages: 432 in Publisher: Harper Perennial From its stunning opening-a celeated Finnish architect is arrested for murder as he arrives in New York Harbor in 1928-of The Cloud Sketcher reveals on eof the this generation’s most admired withyoung novelists (Richard Rayner is a illiantly gifted writer. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) at the full height of his storytelling power. From the ice fields of rural Finland to the ruthless world of New York real estate speculation. The Cloud Sketcher traces the life of Esko Vaananen . a young architect who dreams of building skyscrapers and winning the love of a beautiful Russian aristocrat. Recklessly pursuing these twin passions. Esko’s journey takes him from the battlefields of war-torn Helsinki to the gangster underworld of New York …
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