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The Cloud Sketcher, by Richard Rayner -- A Book Review and Summary

Updated on October 22, 2015

Riveting drama on a historical background

5 stars for The Cloud Sketcher, by Richard Rayner
The Cloud Sketcher: A Novel
The Cloud Sketcher: A Novel

The reviewed book. Follow Esko's spectacular rise and fall on the backdrop of the "Roaring 20s" and the treatment of immigrants in the United States during that time.


Esko Vaananen has his head in the clouds. Just like any other boy his age, Esko spends his time daydreaming and playing in the countryside near his Finland home. Not long ago his mother decided to burn their family home to the ground, with herself inside. When young Esko rushed in to try to save her, his efforts were rewarded with horrible scarring all over his face. His mother still died. Most of the other children don’t want to play with a disfigured boy, so he lives inside his head and keeps to himself. No one knows about his dreams of becoming an architect and putting an amazing new invention, the elevator, to its real use – allowing buildings to be as tall as human ingenuity can make them. At the same time, no one knows about his love for Katerina, the breathtaking daughter of the Russian governor.

About The Cloud Sketcher

The Cloud Sketcher chronicles Esko’s story from these humble beginnings and on through his involvement in the Bolshevik revolution, his immigration to the US, his time working on high-rise construction crews in the 1920s, a coincidental entanglement with organized crime, and his prevailing love for Katerina – who, by all accounts, is his sworn enemy.

Author Richard Rayner weaves an especially rich story line throughout this book which, once it takes off, never slows down until it careens into a wall on the last page. While the likelihood of such a story ever truly taking place is slim, it offers excellent historical snapshots from several different countries at several different points of political turmoil and massive change. Rayner’s characters are almost all very well-rounded, and the atmosphere he builds leaves readers with a distinct impression of actually having witnessed the events described. While a little background in the history involved in the book might be beneficial, it’s certainly not necessary to truly enjoy and even learn from the tale Rayner has to tell.

Reviewer's critique

The pacing really keeps readers in the action after an initial slow point near the beginning. The opening pages jump straight to an arrest for murder the moment a boat pulls into port, snagging interest and enticing readers to continue to the following chapters. Next, the story line takes us back to the slow, calm beginnings of this little Finnish boy whose life couldn’t be more ordinary. That is, until his mother’s horrific death, and the declaration that his father is a wanted political criminal. It runs non-stop from there until the sudden, utter finality of the very end.

Overall, this is an excellent book for people who love a good drama, and especially for those who love historical fiction. The story doesn’t focus on any particular historical event; it touches on several. This certainly has the ability to pique the interest of anyone who doesn’t know all the details about that particular event or place in history, spurring further research later on. After reading this rich, engaging fiction, you may just feel compelled to head off to the library for a couple of non-fictions on the Bolshevik revolution, Finnish/Russian relations, or 1920s New York. This is definitely a worthwhile read, and an author worth reading a second time.


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      ankigarg87 7 years ago

      nice building !