A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
A Reading Ireland Month book
“Ambition is putting a ladder to the sky.”
Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars
Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for fame. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent—but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.
Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel.
Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall. . . .
Sweeping across the late twentieth century, A Ladder to the Sky is a fascinating portrait of a relentlessly immoral man, a tour de force of storytelling, and the next great novel from an acclaimed literary virtuoso.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
Maurice Swift—to what ends will this brilliantly manipulative character go to cement his life’s goal—that of a successful literary author?
OMG, did this one fairly bury me in amazing characters; fascinating, narcissistic, bold, secure and begins naively enough with the introduction to aging author Erich Ackermann. Erich is inexplicably attracted to young Maurice who exudes fan adoration in Erich’s books. So when Erich invites him to act as his assistant on a book tour, Maurice jumps at the chance. Erich falls heavily for young Maurice and it doesn’t help that Maurice is exceedingly attractive and aware of his sexual appeal.
Maurice, who would LOVE to write the next prize-winning literary novel but doesn’t have a clue how to come up with his own original story is, unfortunately, willing to do anything. Then Erich entrusts him with his most shameful haunting secrets and there’s Maurice’s story. It’s dark and deliciously deadly. It ultimately destroys Erich when it comes out but Maurice basks in the success. He can neatly and effectively avoid any guilt. It is, of course, Erich’s disgraceful act during the war that leads to the public outcry against him.
But while Maurice as despot is the main character, there comes a succession of deeply emotive characters, gripping, engaging. The well-developed part of Maurice’s wife; easy to love, sweet unsophisticated, and trusting, her POV comes to the forefront—for a short while.
Remember that old saying, “When the Gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers.” [Oscar Wilde]
Maurice always wanted to have a child of his own. In the meantime, there is a series of name-dropping that includes Gore (Vidal) whose conversations lead to some very witty, insightful glances into the cut-throat world of the literary (…that hack Swift). Dog eat dog. How far is Maurice willing to go to succeed, to be the one with the next bestseller. His bestseller or not?
At each turn, the plot goes from benign to cancerous, bland to black, and soon this reader is turning pages over jaw-dropping twists you wouldn’t have believed, was it not for the continued fleshing of the moral character of Maurice. Is he capable of this? Oh yes, he is. And it’s becoming frightening.
Maurice is a master at rationalization—he can always see where the fault lay in the other—himself as the innocent who merely provided the catalyst to the story—made it better. Why shouldn’t he reap the reward?
And then the end, when you think it’s caught up with him? The irony? The last laugh is on you, fellow reader. It’s a gotcha!
Now, have you ever wondered what the words are under the title? I know what it is. Have you read this book? Want to discuss it or are you curious what it says under the title? Ask me in the comments.
One last thought: The narrators did a superlative job on this audiobook, most especially that inebriate voice. So realistic. This novel still resonates with me and will for some time. I’ll look for more books from this author.
Genre: LGBTQ, Psychological Fiction, Psychological Thrillers
Publisher: Random House Audio
Listening Length: 11 hrs 32 mins
Narrators: Richard E. Grant, Richard Cordery, Nina Sosanya, Laurence Kennedy
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: A Ladder to the Sky [Amazon]
The Author: John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971. The winner of three Irish Book Awards, he is the author of thirteen novels for adults, six for younger readers and a collection of short stories. The international bestseller The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was made into a Miramax feature film and has sold more than eleven million copies worldwide. His novels are published in over fifty languages. He lives in Dublin. http://www.johnboyne.com.
©2022 V Williams