A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

A Ladder to the Sky

John Boyne

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.

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“An addictive Rubik’s Cube of vice that keeps turning up new patterns of depravity… a satire of writerly ambition wrapped in a psychological thriller… A Ladder to the Sky is an homage to Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, but its execution is entirely Boyne’s own." -- Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Take Meg Wolitzer's novel The Wife...and cross it with Patricia Highsmith's classic Ripley stories, about a suave psychopath, and you've got something of the crooked charisma of John Boyne's new novel, A Ladder to the Sky." -- NPR 

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.

Advance Galley Reviews

Intriguing questions and a fascinating main character make A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne a memorable book. Maurice can put words together but has no imagination to create stories. He is ambitious. He covets success and stardom. What is he to do? His answer turns out to be anything and everything. I, the reader, watch horrified and turn page after page to see if there is a limit to what Maurice will do to further his own goals. Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2019/02/a-ladder-to-sky.html. Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

Started it but wasn't able to finish it on time. Not that I was enjoying it too much....

A tale of a literary vampire who has another secret to hide every time he climbs a step closer to the success he single-mindedly desires. Maurice evoked a constant feeling of disgust in me, but it was still an amazing book. Boyne wove a spell that kept my gaze on this train wreck. Maurice is certainly a psychopath, but he's a psychopath in the literary world, and that makes him attractive to the other characters as well as us bibliophiles. He's the kind of character that challenges the character of the reader. What is our relationship to this horrible man? The narrative spirals closer and closer to him, not actually narrated by the main character until the last section, drawing us closer even as we're more sure we don't want to be there. There are very good discussions about how novelists get their stories and who owns the stories, but then one of the conversationalists, we remember, is despicable. We must be careful not to let him make a good point. And I think the ending called forth in me, as it was probably designed to do, the most satisfying schadenfreude I've ever experienced. But wait, that's okay, isn't it? I got a copy to review from First to Read.

Writing was good, but the hook was not there for me.

Absolutely a sensational read of naked ambition. Totally enjoyed becoming immersed in this book,definitely will pick up more of John Boyne's work.

4.5 stars Last year, there was one book that I not only kept seeing repeatedly atop many “best of” lists, I also saw that nearly every one of my Goodreads friend who had read the book (and whose opinions I trust) raved about it. Of course, I immediately put the book on my TBR and even bought a special annotated hardcover version with the goal of reading it as soon as my time allowed. That book, as I’m sure most have guessed already, was John Boyne’s award-winning masterpiece The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Unfortunately (and much to my disappointment), things didn’t turn out the way I wanted and I ended up not being able to read the book last year as planned (though with that said, in planning my 2019 reading goals, I have prioritized the book as a “must read” for next year). When I saw that Boyne would have a new book out this year, a novel entitled A Ladder to the Sky, I just knew that I could not repeat the “missed opportunity” from last year, so I jumped on getting an advance copy and prioritized it for this month. Now, having finished this brilliantly written novel, I’m so glad I was able to get to it and finally experience for myself Boyne’s masterful storytelling (not to mention I think I’ve found myself yet another author to add to my “favorites” list)! Truth be told, I felt conflicted the entire time I read this book. On the one hand, I absolutely loved the writing (to say that the writing in here is “brilliant” is actually an understatement – it’s so good that I can’t think of a proper word to describe it that would give it justice) and the story was well-executed, powerful, and magnificently told (I was engrossed in the story from first page to the last). In the area of character development, Boyne’s skill is beyond phenomenal, as the meticulous way he crafted the character of Maurice Swift – a “protagonist” so without morals and without a single redeeming quality about him that it was impossible not to hate him (I actually loathed him with every fiber of my being) – yet at the same time, the character is written in a way that is so realistic and utterly believable that there were many moments where I felt like I was reading about a real person instead of a fictional character. Never have I read a book where I despised the main “protagonist” so much that I almost didn’t want to continue reading after part 2 because I was so overwhelmingly disgusted with Maurice’s actions up to that point that I didn’t think I could bear reading any more about his bad deeds without wanting to pull my hair out. The only reason I persevered was because I absolutely HAD TO KNOW whether Maurice would get his comeuppance in the end (and in another first for me -- as I read every subsequent page after that middle section, I hoped that the ending would be satisfying, but more importantly, I actually “prayed” that the ending would involve the character’s demise). Of course, I’m not going to spoil it for those who’ve yet had the chance to read this, so I’m not going to say anything further about the plot or my feelings about the ending. Bottom line, this was a fantastic read, one that I can’t recommend highly enough! Rating-wise, this was easily a 5 star read given how much I loved the magnificent writing and the engaging story (plus parts of the story and the dialogue between some characters did give me food for thought and made me ponder some previously-held beliefs), but I ended up giving 4.5 (rounded down) because I hated the character of Maurice so much (and disliked many of the other characters as well) that I just couldn’t bring myself to rate it higher. With that said though, I will echo the sentiments of many of the other reviewers here in saying that if you haven’t read a John Boyne novel yet, rectify that by reading this one. I personally intend to go a step further in that I plan to read as many of his previous novels as I can while I eagerly wait to see what Boyne has in store for us next! Received ARC from Hogarth Press and Crown Publishing via Penguin First to Read program.

New favorite book alert! This one is SO. DAMN. GOOD. I received an ARC of this a few months ago and wasn't really that intrigued by the description so it just sat here. And sat. And sat. But I've slowly been seeing more and more positive reviews about John Boyne's books - specifically The Hearts Invisible Furies. Which I also have. But it scares me. It's SO damn big! As soon as I saw it was Book of the Month pick for November, I decided to give it a shot. And I cannot even put into words how much this book enthralled me, how much I LOVED to hate Maurice, how beautiful the writing is, how creepy and riveting the story unfolds. Amazing. Just a pure literary delight. Maurice Swift is a gorgeous man. He can basically get whatever he wants based on his looks alone. So, he decides that he is going to do just that, and get the one thing he does not have: the talent to write a good story. Sure, he's a good writer, but he just can't seem to come up with a good story, a plot that sells, a book that will make him famous. Throwing all morals out the window, he aligns himself with those who will get him those things that he needs to achieve the highest literary fame he can, no matter what it takes. It's a thriller that just takes it to a level that is indescribable. The merciless acts Maurice goes through to satisfy his hunger for fame and recognition is equal parts insane, cold-blooded and at times, a bit hilarious. The story is the epitome of un-put-downable. This book will definitely be added to my "must read again" list - and soon. Highly recommend. A new favorite for sure.

In evolutionary biology, parasitism is a relationship between species, where one organism, the parasite, lives on or in another organism, the host, causing it some harm, and is adapted structurally to this way of life.[1] The entomologist E. O. Wilson has characterized parasites as "predators that eat prey in units of less than one" - Wikipedia Well, sometimes a host gets to be an entire feast. Maurice Swift can be plenty charming, and he is quite something to look at, but he has issues with morality, and is possessed of a very considerable and toxic ambition. He wants to be a writer. Not just any writer. He wants to be a world-famous writer, winner of The Prize. And he does have talent. He can write. The only problem is that he is a form without substance. Maurice cannot, for the life of him, come up with any story ideas. Luckily for Maurice, the world is bubbling with such talents. It is left to Maurice to attach himself to those who are able to concoct stories, or even just recount good stories from real life, and drain what he can from them before casting aside their empty husks. We begin when young Maurice latches on to Erich Ackermann, an aging gay writer who has lived almost his entire life bereft of romance. Preying on Erich’s desperation, Swift slowly draws from the once top-tier talent a life story of unrequited love during the days of Hitler, and a heinous betrayal that has haunted Ackermann all his life. John Boyne - image from The Guardian by Murdo Macleod We get to see Maurice from the outside until the final part of the book, his marks telling us about their dealings with him. Of course, things are not entirely black and white. Yes, Maurice is awful, and he does seek to take undue advantage of those he targets, but his victims do not always enter into arrangements with Maurice with blinders on. The more experienced among them, at least, know that he is not exactly a choir boy, while recognizing that he could pretend to be one if they wanted him to. Most see that he means to feed on them, and are ok with that, up to a point, there being some give as well as take. Also, in addition to being a pretty awful specimen of humanity, one redeeming feature is that Maurice feels a great desire to be a father. Does this make him less sociopathic? It certainly seems out of the usual range for characters of this sort. And there must be a place inside us where we want Maurice to finally find his grail, without having to cosh Lancelot over the head to get it. Is Maurice a rake or a monster, or are both merely steps on a ladder? Particularly wonderful among Maurice’s targets is a fictionalized Gore Vidal, the one person Maurice targets who sees right through him. The venom in this section is considerable and potent. You might want to wear the sort of disposable rain slicker they give people in the front few rows of Blue Man Group performances lest you find some spatters on exposed skin and are taken down several notches. Delicious fun. …when I was writing this, I watched as many documentaries as I could. I wanted to capture his voice, and I felt that with somebody like that, because he was so sharp, so funny, and so clever, you've really got to raise your game. I felt very sure that Vidal would be the only person in the book who would see through Maurice and not be taken in by him. I worked very, very hard on that section and all of his lines to make sure that they sounded right, that if he was still with us and if he read it, he would feel that I haven't let him down. - from the Goodreads interviewBoyd does a wonderful job of ratcheting up tension, the same result, if not the kitsch, of the little child running back into room where a monster was last seen, to retrieve a favorite stuffy. “You idiot, don’t do it! Come back!” We can see the perils long before his marks do, and even get a pretty good idea of how Maurice is going about his crimes. And we wonder, just how long can this son of a bitch keep getting away with it? If you find this unrealistic, I would recommend for your consideration the question of why Donald J. Trump has not seen the inside of a jail cell for his lifetime of crimality. Sometimes monsters walk free regardless of what they have done. Boyne, author of five novels for younger readers, including the wildly successful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and eleven novels for adults (including this one), has been bringing more and more of his personal life into his books. His prior novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, looked at the life of a gay Irish man over the course of a lifetime. In A Ladder to the Sky, Boyne is looking at a millieu with which he is familiar, lit life, book tours, writers, and hangers-on, personalities, dreams, ambitions, and disappointments. Maurice was based on a part of that.“He came from an experience I had a number of years ago with an aspiring writer who sort of attached himself to me,” he says. “We formed quite a strong friendship and it developed into an unhealthy situation. I was very drawn to this man. I’m no innocent in terms of how it all worked out. We were both maybe using each other slightly. The guy was aware of the fact that I’d a crush on him. I was just charmed to be around him. It eventually reached a point where I had to confront that. Not that I was interested in confronting him about it but confronting myself about why I was allowing myself to be manipulated.”from the Gilmartin interviewYou can enjoy this novel on two levels. It is a something of a thriller, watching Maurice wend his way through serial victims. How far will he go, what will he do to achieve his ambitions? And what will he do to keep his true self hidden? On another level this is a wonderful satire on writers and writerly ambition, what they do to get ahead, the networking, light and dark, that fuels success. Whatever elements touch you, we can certainly recognize in Maurice and in Boyne’s other characters, a need for recognition, whether in the form of personal affection or public acclaim, regardless of the profession or sexual inclinations involved. A Ladder to the Sky is engaging, dark, and wickedly funny. While the rungs on Maurice’s ascent are sometimes too easily scaled, he does encounter the mis-step here and there. You, on the other hand, need have no such concern. Each step up will offer a wider and clearer view until you reach the top and see all. A Ladder to the Sky offers a rewarding vista. Enjoy the view. Review posted – November 16, 2018 Publication date – November 13, 2018 I received this book from Penguin Random House’s First To Read program in return for an honest review, well, at least one I wrote myself. Thankfully the FTR program does not require one to be the first to review. I noted at least 200 reviews already up by GR Friends, and god knows how many by people I have used and then ditched. I wrote this all myself, I swear. I absolutely did not scan through all those earlier reviews looking for (and purloining) the best ideas, swear to God. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and Instagram pages Interviews -----The Irish Times - John Boyne: We formed a strong friendship, it developed into an unhealthy situation - by Sarah Gilmartin -----Goodreads interview John Boyne Explores the Dark Side of Literary Ambition - by Catherine Elsworth -----Publishers Weekly - Haggling for Fame: PW Talks with John Boyne - by Kelsey Gillespie Smith Odd bits -----A wiki on the many sorts of ladders ladders there are -----10 Writing Tips from John Boyne -----My review of The Heart’s Invisible Furies

What an amazing and horrifying and insightful and incredible read this was!! And to think, I almost put it down in the beginning... This was my first John Boyne - but DEFINITELY not my last. His characters are difficult (personality-wise, not to read - his writing is gorgeous) and I was struggling to fall into the story at first - or even to figure out who exactly the book was about. But I read so many reviews that gushed, so kept going - and am so very glad I did because this was a fantastically-crafted book! The POV changes from section to section, and if you haven't remembered or reread the blurb, as I had not, it's easy to forget who you're actually reading about because for most of the book the first person narrator is in fact not the protagonist (who is, incidentally, the antagonist too). It's an unusual construct, and that's what I was struggling with a bit in the beginning - I was looking for the "relentlessly immoral man" but found myself reading about a waiter and an author. I don't always do well with non-traditional narrative styles - they often feel like gimmicks for the sake of being gimmicks - but once I hit my stride with this one (fairly early on) I was hooked and you couldn't pry the book out of my hands... Boyne has an incredible ability to paint characters that jump off the page, even when the "action" they are engaged in is inactive. He's a phenomenal wordsmith and the story creeps into your subconscious, tangling itself into your mind until you can't help but read it compulsively. Maurice is deplorable - utterly and completely and unapologetically so. But he's a delicious kind of deplorable, and you can't stop yourself from flipping pages to see what horrible device he will employ next in his unrelenting quest for fame and glory. The characters who fall to him are brilliantly contrived to both meet his/the plot's needs AND to stand on their own as relatable humans who each suffered from a fatal flaw of their own and whose downfall is both shocking and banal at the same time. To me, that's the true brilliance here - the evil is on naked display but much of it is massaged so it creeps up on you in intensity until BAM! it smacks you over the head with a two by four. This was an incredible book and I am definitely lining up for the next Boyne title!

In this book, Boyne brings up the question of the ownership of a story. How ethical is it to write down someone else's story for your own profit if it was told to you willingly in confidence? But he doesn't stop there. He draws parallels between stealing a story that one has been told and irrefutable plagiarism, making it rather hard to argue that the former is an ethical way to behave. At its heart, A Ladder to the Sky is a cautionary tale against the pitfalls of unchecked ambition. It is also a criticism of a world in which one must be willing to play a rather vicious game in order to be truly successful. The three-part format and life-like characters make the almost 400 pages of this book seem to fly by. The beautiful language and the fast pace of the story also keep the reader turning the pages.

Wow. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did and was pleasantly surprised. I do not think I have ever disliked a character as much as Maurice Swift. He is the slimiest cheater and I felt terrible for anyone that came across his path because they were almost certainly doomed. Maurice would go to incredible lengths to steal stories and cover up his tracks and I cannot imagine how Boyne came up with this incredible tale. While I couldn’t tell where the plot was headed at first, I was drawn in a third of the way through and did not want to stop reading. Some of the twists were predictable but the ones that surprised me were very well done. Boyne did a great job of returning to flashbacks and characters so loose ends were completely tied and no questions remained on my end by the end of the book. 384 pages is a lengthy book, but Boyne successfully got me to hooked and caused me to flip through all 384 quickly. No spoilers, but my reaction to the last sentence was “Oh dear God…” Definitely recommend this to all readers, one of my top 5 reads of 2018 so far. Thank you to the First Reads Program for providing me with a free copy for my honest review!

I know a lot of people love his author and his writing is fine. I just could not identify with the characters in this book so unfortunately I did not finish this book. May try to listen to audiobook version.

I think that most people picking up this book will know that John Boyne is considered a great writer but I don't think it's possible to understand just how great a writer Boyne is until you finish this book. I almost don't want to write too much in this review because part of the joy of this book for me was going in and not knowing what to expect. Maurice, the main character, comes off in the first few pages as someone who we may grow to like but the charm of this book is how captivating he is and how the reader gets suckered into his allure just like his various victims along the way. The book is also so FUN to read. There's just something about it that made it hard to put down and a joy to consume! I'd definitely recommend this one!

When I survey the most memorable of evil characters, it is female versions that first come to mind. Ron Rash’s title character Serena. Steinbeck’s Cathy in East of Eden. Lady Macbeth. With A Ladder to the Sky, John Boyne has provided a new one – and he’s male. Maurice Swift is a want-to-be writer except for one thing – he has difficulty coming up with a good story. And so, he steals them. The narrative begins with Swift’s friendship with seasoned writer Erich Ackermann. Ackermann is infatuated with Swift and Swift uses the affection to lure Ackermann to tell Swift a story from his past – a story so intriguing that when Swift sells it as his first novel, it propels Swift to the forefront of young writers to watch. From here, Swift continues to steal his ideas – from friends, students, protégés, even his wife. Laid out in five episodes of Swift’s life, A Ladder to the Sky is three parts and two interludes. The main segments are written in first person from three different perspectives – Ackermann (a friend-admirer), Swift’s wife and finally Swift himself. Between each part is an interlude, written in third person. Each segment gives new insight into Swift’s theft of stories – both past and present. In every new phase, the lengths to which Swift will go to procure his next project increase in both duplicity and egregiousness. Also notable are the consequences to those who have been stolen from. For example, Ackermann is rendered a Nazi sympathizer. All the while the reader is loath to see Swift make his escape. Swifts’ motive is somewhat elusive, and perhaps this is what makes him such a villain. In his teenage years, it seems that he truly wants to be a writer and he just needs development. As a young adult, fame is more a driver, which also can be excused as immaturity. But as Swift ages, it seems that the sin itself is his motive – and the rush from having alluded discovery, especially once he knows just how much he has gotten away with. I loved A Ladder to the Sky. Emotionally, it made my heart race and my blood boil. Intellectually, the structure begs for contemplation. But simply put, if you love a book that is hard to put down and reminds you why you love to read, this is for you.

I tried to get into this book but it was tough. Something about the writing was off-putting. Maybe it was due to Boyne's successful portrayal of a truly deplorable character. Needless to say, I did not finish reading the book in its entirety. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, also by Boyne, was a good read so I will have to give it a second read when it comes out in print.

Seductive, intoxicating, these are just a few of the words used to describe "A Ladder to the Sky" and they'd be right. Maurice Swift is the exact kind of amoral character readers love to hate, even when that hate has you lifting your head from the story and saying, "What the actual [expletive] did he just do?" From his first mark to his last, Maurice's rise and fall from "grace" is the sort of story that resonates with readers because we all have known someone who climbed the ladder by making the types of choices that leave us cold inside. . . . and those of us who are really honest with ourselves recognize that some of Maurice's choices are not dissimilar to ones we ourselves have made or have been tempted by in the past. Aside from a touch of confusion when the novel opened up from Erich Ackermann's perspective when I was from the description expecting Maurice's took a dozen pages to get into, but after that, John Boyne has a deft hand with descriptions and characterizations to give each character their voice in this narrative. A narrative that sucks a reader in and doesn't let go until the final act plays out on the page. Having never read anything by John Boyne before, I can now say with confidence that I am picking up everything else this man every pens.

Maurice Swift has the ambition to be a great writer but not the inspiration. He is known for having a wonderful way with words so he uses his good looks to appropriate the stories of others and publish acclaimed novels. In this story of a man with little to no conscience, the reader follows Maurice on his quest for recognition and literary fame. I love a good psychological drama and this had it all. Maurice’s character was, for me, so despicable that I nearly cringed while reading. Feelings of disgust and revulsion were nearly palpable. He was manipulative, dishonest, and ruthless. I, like one of the characters, might say, “I’m rather enjoying all the rudeness.” To both love and hate a character and to read to the final outcome not sure what justice to hope for, this is testament to the brilliant writing of John Boyne.

This. This is the book. This is the book that moves John Boyne into the next level of literature. Of course you love The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - you’d be heartless not to. And The Heart’s Invisible Furies won’t let you not love it. But this? It’s leaps & bounds above anything else by him. It could have been written by Ian McEwan. If this isn’t on your radar, fix that. Read this book! ??

Sigh. This is the second time I was in the middle of a First To Read ARC and the file suddenly expires. I've never seen anything posted about expirations, as far as I saw we had until Nov 13 to read this one (today is Nov 7). I was reading earlier today and had no more than 60 pages left in this fantastic book and suddenly I could no longer open the file. I am so upset as I was loving the book and was quite curious to see how it ended. Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this and I regret that my review must be incomplete.

This book was utterly masterful. From the very beginning, I was completely hooked on the narrative style. What’s this author playing at? I asked myself as we kept jumping locations and time periods and points of view. But Boyne showed skillful restraint as he breadcrumbed me into the story. My need to know the full chain of events through to its end — as Boyne weaved in layer after complex layer — was like a train that just kept picking up speed, right through to the end when it left me completely gobsmacked. I really enjoyed all the references to real-life figures and events. The Gore Vidal chapter in particular was a favorite. I will definitely be recommending this book to others, and in fact already have been!

After being uninterested in the very publicized previous Boyne book, I figured I would give this one a try. To be honest, I worked on it for a while and could only get to page 56. I found it dull and the language in places was overly flowery and hyperbolic for my tastes. I did not finish this book and do not think Boyne is for me.

Ladder to the Sky is the second John Boyne book I've read (The Heart's Invisible Furies was one of my favorite reads for 2018). Boyne's writing is amazing, although I did not enjoy this story as much as The Heart's Invisible Furies. What's interesting is that Boyne chose to write this book detailing a character who is, in a word, despicable. Maurice is introduced early in the book, although at that point, it is not clear that Maurice is the main character. Rather, the book goes through all of the people that influenced Maurice's career. The reader gets insight into his head and how he justifies all of his actions. It's hard to like a book with such an awful main character, but I did like this one. Boyne is an amazing writer and I devoured this book. It did start a bit slow, but once I got to the second part, I couldn't put it down. I would highly recommend this to others, especially those who liked any of Boyne's other works.

This book is essentially a character study and what a character Maurice is! He's ambitious, manipulative, self-absorbed, and immoral but I couldn't stop turning the pages to find out what he would do next. Maurice's story unfolds as he interacts with Erich, an older author who becomes his mentor, Edith, his wife and Daniel, his son. Another author, Dash, also takes Maurice under his wing. During the time that Dash and Maurice are together, they visit Gore Vidal on the Amalfi coast. All of these people are interesting and move the story along well. This was my first exposure to John Boyne and I am definitely going to be looking for more of his work. 5 out of 5 stars

"A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one cunning, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of success." This say's it all about the book. Actually the ruthlessness of the "man" is beyond comprehension. The protagonist is utterly despicable. I hated him with a deep down passion. As the book progressed I was overcome at his disregard for others and at times for himself. I am sure this was the authors intent and he delivered a perfect scenario. The characters are very well developed and Boyne's writing is beyond compare. I have not had the pleasure of reading John Boyne before and boy have I been missing out. A great five star read that is very enjoyable, but also a bit unsettling.

This is my first John Boyne book. I was drawn to this First to Read book, as I have read good reviews elsewhere of his last book. The writing in this book is exceptional; lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, great metaphors, and great dialogue, which keeps the story moving. It's rare that I can't put a book down, but this was one I just had to keep reading so as not to lose the flow. The title, "A Ladder to the Sky," possibly came from the motivational phrase, "Ambition is putting a ladder against the sky." In this story, Maurice, a devious young sycophant is more than motivated. He is obsessed with becoming a famous writer, at any cost to anyone he can use to get what he wants. This decade has seen a slew of books about the sociopath and psychopath, the Gillian Flynn genre. This novel is a good one because Maurice has a purpose for his wicked behavior, which makes him a more interesting character than the common garden variety malevolent human who is evil just to be center stage in human drama. Two other books that give credence to this type of individual are "Evil Genes" and "Dangerous Personalities." These people are everywhere. I especially liked the setting of the story, the writing industry. Boyne portrays the mediocre writer who has made a niche for himself, the writer who "borrows" from other writers and becomes famous, and some real talent that remains forever in obscurity, the same thing seen in all professions. Homosexuality normally has been only alluded to in novels of the past. I found this novel interesting in that homosexual characters were clearly drawn. The vulnerabilities of the gay male were portrayed larger than life. I appreciate the openness. There is a second sociopath, who appears later in the story and plays a minor role, and again, victimizes people before they know what hit them. This character was unexpected and gives the book an edge of horror above and beyond what is apparent already. It was a great addition to the story. Gore is the one character who is not a victim, and I was thrilled later when it is revealed that he is Gore Vidal. It made me ponder, does Boyne know him? Is Maurice part of his story in real life? There is also the philosophical to ponder in this book. People who live without any moral compass have no boundaries. They justify their actions for themselves only. Maurice finally hit the boundaries of others as he went so far afield. I did find the writer he met in his old age a little unbelievable, but I was willing to accept him in the story just because everything else up to that point was just so good. I'm looking forward to reading some of Boyne's other books. He is a brilliant writer and a lot of fun to read!

I love John Boyne, so so much and this book did not disappoint. The main character, Maurice, though absolutely deplorable in his actions, was an interesting and well-fleshed out individual. Boyne has a of making you so deeply for the characters involved and writes in a way that requires you to keep going to find out what happens. The storyline was unique, unlike anything I'd ever read, and I was fascinated by how everything came full circle. I would recommend this book to anyone!

After reading The Heart's Invisible Furies I knew I wanted to read A Ladder to the Sky as soon as possible. While the book is not similar in subject matter, it tackles a protagonist you aren't meant to like. Maurice Swift is a psychopath. He does whatever it takes to get ahead and covers his life in pieces told by those he has used or tried to use until the it's finally Maurice's time to tell his story. I was shocked that by the end I had a smidge of empathy for Maurice but of course Maurice doesn't let you down on any turn with how terrible of a character he is. John Boyne didn't let me down either. He's a wonderful storyteller and created such a fascinating character study with this novel. He gives the reader insight into the competitive nature, good and bad, of being a writer and what it can do to a person in search of The Prize. From covering marriage and having a child as an asexual, Maurice's life is quite interesting. I most fell in love with Edith and her section was my favorite. This is a book you may not completely enjoy because of the main character, but that's what will make the story so interesting.

This is the first John Boyne book that I have read, and I know it definitely will not be the last. While I can't say this was a book I enjoyed, I found it incredibly compelling. What ultimately made this not an enjoyable book was the protagonist. He was absolutely unforgivable in every action he took. While I was shocked and appalled by each new level he took his deception and manipulation to, I couldn't stop reading. The writing was so addictive. The main character, Maurice, and the other major characters he interacted with over the course of his life were all well developed. Those who deserved sympathy were easy to feel sympathetic for, those who deserved derision were made appropriately off-putting. Boyne has a real talent to make me continue to read about a character who continued to do worse and worse things for characters I had come to care about and feel sorry for with their lack of knowledge of the manipulation. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good writing and well-developed characters (as long as they can handle absolutely repulsive, detestable characters as well)

Jaw-dropping. This novel shocked me at every turn. I made myself slow down while reading so I could savor this journey. Because believe me, I was ready to absolutely devour this book. We first meet Maurice Swift as a young man in his 20's, through the eyes of Erich Ackermann. What unravels is one wild story that concludes when Swift is about 50 years old. After initially using Ackermann for a story, Maurice moves on to someone else. His ambition is to be a world-famous author and he will do absolutely anything to accomplish it. Anything! The story is told from multiple perspectives at different periods of time. We even get a viewpoint from Maurice himself. (Enlightening, to say the least). I think at its heart, this book is a writer's book. Because it does bring up interesting questions about where an author draws inspiration from. What is fair game, and where do writers draw the line? Rating: 5/5 stars

It took me a while to really get into this book but when I did it became a half-way decent page turner. I had never read John Boyne's work before but I'm sure I will again in the near future.

John Boyne wows again! While I didn’t get sucked into the story on page 1 like I did with The Hearts Invisible Furies, I still absolutely loved A Ladder to the Sky! Part 1 started out a bit slow for me, but Parts 2 and 3 were absolutely fantastic and really brought everything together. Going into reading this book, I had a general idea of the plot based off the description, but this story held so much more than I anticipated, and I was blown away by some of the reveals! I don’t want to give anything away, but the story centers around a egotistical and manipulative author, Maurice Swift, who wants to be known as the most prolific writer of all time, and the lengths he will go to achieve his goal. The only thing holding him back? He can’t come up with an original story idea to save his life. But hey, that’s what other people’s ideas are for, which really makes the cover art for this book absolutely genius! Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest review.

Earlier this year, I read The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne and the main character, Cyril Avery, burrowed his way into my heart. The writing in that novel was beautiful and Cyril's story was heartbreaking, tragic, yet also heartwarming. Boyne created such a loveable and sympathetic character in Cyril and I was rooting for him through every obstacle and tragedy that life threw his way. As soon as I found out that Boyne was coming out with a new novel this year, I knew I had to get my hands on it as quickly as possible, and boy, he did not disappoint with A Ladder to the Sky. Both The Heart's Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky are on my shortlist for my favorite books read in 2018. I could not put this book down and felt compelled to turn page to page. As loveable and tenderhearted Cyril was, Maurice Swift was the complete opposite. I told my fiancé that as heartwarming The Heart's Invisible Furies was, A Ladder to the Sky was that wretched plus more! It's a testament to John Boyne that he can create two stories with such diametrically-opposed main characters and I enjoyed both incredibly. A Ladder to the Sky is written beautifully, but tells the story of an utterly ugly man (though physically, incredibly handsome), Maurice Swift. It chronicles his life as he pursues his ambition to become his generation's "greatest novelist." And, oh man, some of the things Maurice does had my jaw on the floor. (There are a few shocks from other characters as well!) The entire book isn't completely wretched though; Boyne has the magical ability to insert levity and humor into dire and heartbreaking circumstances, and a brief interlude in the book between Maurice and Gore Vidal highlights that ability. I cannot recommend this book to others more! It makes you think, it shocks you, and even instills some fear in you. I need more John Boyne novels in my life!! Thank you to First to Read for my ARC of this book.

This is a story about a shockingly evil man, Maurice Swift. His ambition to be a feted author knows no bounds. Usually the bad guy has a back story that explains the origins of misdeeds...not so much with Maurice. The secondary characters usually pay a hefty price for their human behavior.Maurice seizes EVERY opportunity to accomplish his goals. I wanted him to get his comeuppance at the end ... The only realization I had was that he was so self contained and only needed his ambition to be fed in order to make his life worth living. Very good read! Thanks for the ARC of “ A Ladder to the Sky””,

Extremely well written and compelling but since I could not stand the main character, I would not say that I really enjoyed it. Maurice Swift, sociopath or psychopath? You be the judge.

Summary: How low would you go to reach the stars, to get to the top? Over four decades, we follow Maurice Smith and his trail of destruction, as this consummately untalented writer lies, cheats and steals to get what he wants. Main Characters: Maurice Smith: Young, impossibly handsome, his magnetic personality overpowers most people, who find themselves willing to do whatever he asks. And he asks a lot. There are few if no redeeming qualities in his character. All he wants is to be given “The Prize”, an annual literary award which would cement his reputation as a serious, original author. Erich Ackermann: An ageing homosexual in 1980’s  Berlin, haunted by his wartime actions but now a successful author and in-residence Cambridge professor, he is attracted to the young Smith, and so begins his fall from grace. Edith Smith: Maurice’s wife, she too makes the mistake of getting too close to this particular sun. Immensely talented as a writer, after five years of marriage and a move to Norwich, she begins to have her suspicions about her husband. Minor Characters: Dash Hardy: A middle-aged writer who has had popular success but nothing of literary merit, he too falls for the charms of the young Maurice. Gore Vidal: The true lion in the jungle, he knows Maurice for what he is, and is strong enough to reject him. Theo Field: A young student, who writes a thesis on Maurice. Plot: The book is in three parts, with two interludes. Each part takes a main character, and is written from their point of view. In each part, the action has moved on significantly from the last part, and there are “flashbacks” which reference previous characters. We open in Berlin 1988, where sixty-six year old Erich Ackermann, an ageing, lonely closet homosexual who sadly never “had his virginity conquered”, is in town to receive an award for his novel Dread. Unusually for him, he gets attracted to a young male waiter, Maurice Smith, and is excited when the young man spends time with him after his shift. This quickly progresses to a (non-physical) relationship, where Erich takes the young man on tour with him as his paid assistant, and, in his effort to progress and deepen the relationship, and being unashamedly led on by Smith, reveals to him the hidden secrets of his life. Unfortunately, unlike the reader, Erich doesn’t realise until too late that he is being played. Maurice is completely unscrupulous, and is willing and able to exploit his immense charm and stunning good looks to further his own ends. He wants to be a writer, but has no originality. His strength lies in transcribing/refining other people’s work, and passing it off as his own, but his own creative muse is dead. It must be noted that Maurice is a highly-functioning sociopath, caring nothing for anyone, and clever enough to keep his contempt well hidden. While he engenders real feelings, both from a male and female audience, he cares nothing for that, and will ruthlessly abuse people to become the writer he believes he is. Like most mediocre people, he is riven by jealousy and anger, as he sees those he deems less talented achieve the lofty heights of being Prize winners, and feted in the literary press. Once he has sucked the life blood out of Erich, he callously dumps him and moves on with Dash Hardy, who like Erich introduces the aspiring writer into various literary circles, including the indomitable Gore Vidal. Maurice repeats the process with Dash, and tries and fails with Gore. Gore points out to Dash that he is being used, and Dash acknowledges this, but states he cannot help himself as he loves the young man. We follow Maurice through the fifth year of his married life with Edith, herself a successful young writer, and watch as she exposes him for the sham he is, and witness the end of a marriage (in a superb twist to the story). We meet Maurice as he edits his own magazine in New York, only published four times a year, so writers are clamouring to be featured in this exclusive magazine. Maurice is assuming the role of elder statesman in the literary world, with a couple of big hits to his name, but still missing that creative spark. We finally sit with Maurice in a pub in London, as he meets with a potential biographer Theo Field, and over time relates his story. In Maurice’s narcissistic view, he has done absolutely nothing wrong to anyone. The ending of the novel is excellent, with yet another unexpected twist. What I Liked: From the opening lines, I was drawn right into the story, and found it impossible to put down until I had finished it. The plot is well thought-through, and each character is clearly realised. Though Maurice is utterly despicable, you cannot help but marvel at his sheer bloody-minded focus on his own absolute success. The writing is superb, the pace absolutely spot-on, and extremely readable. What I Didn’t Like: Maurice is a little over the top, almost unbelievable in his pursuit of fame. However, not knowingly having known many sociopaths, this may be the norm for their behaviour. Overall: An enthralling read. It took me about three to four hours to finish it, and I loved every minute. It has everything from well-written characters, an cracking plot, multiple twists, and a couple of real shocker moments (not all of which belong to Maurice!). The trail of devastation and wrecked lives is horrible to see, and Maurice is almost Macbeth-like being “in blood stepped in so far’. Unlike the Scottish king, though, Maurice has absolutely no conscience nor guilt over what he has done and continues to do, so is quite happy to continue wading. That is the true horror of his character. I would thoroughly recommend this book. Acknowledgements: Thanks to Penguin First To Read and the author for sending me a pdf of the book, in return for an honest and objective review.

Excited that I was able to read this one ahead of time - what a fabulous book with a fabulously awful main character! Maurice Swift is an aspiring and fame hungry writer that will do anything to publish and gain literary accolades. Told from several different view points (including Gore Vidal!), the reader sees the lengths Swift will go to achieve fame. Loved the characters (even the vile Swift), the writing, and the story. This is the second John Boyne book that I have read (first, Boy in the Striped Pajamas). After reading this one, I fully plan to go back and read his others.

A LADDER TO THE SKY by John Boyne was absolutely mesmerizing, and very few fictional villains have ever enraged me as much as the book’s main character (Maurice Swift). I usually find unlikeable characters sort of humorous and fun to read about, but Swift made me so angry, I wanted to beat the crap out of him. Swift takes vile behavior to the next level and makes Tom Ripley’s antics look like child’s play. The way Swift’s character was written really struck a chord; unfortunately, it is probably because we all know or have encountered someone with similar traits at some point in our lives (most likely in the workplace or even on social media.) Swift is a talentless poseur with ruthless, sociopathic ambition. He will do anything to reach the brass ring, and in this case, the brass ring is to be a famous writer. Naturally, an opportunistic snake oil salesman like Swift doesn’t have the motivation or brainpower to do his own work, but he will go to incredible lengths to gaslight others and manipulate situations for his own benefit. The tactics Swift uses to reach his goals are absolutely appalling (e.g., stealing other people’s stories, plagiarism, etc.), but somehow scumbags like this can always justify their actions and make you wonder if you’re in the wrong for calling them out or seeing through their BS. Even though I was shaking with rage most of the time I read this, the story was immensely enjoyable and thought-provoking. It is brilliantly told from the viewpoint of the main character as well as his intended victims. Swift first worms his way into the lives of two aging writers, who take him under their wings and mentor him. After getting one to share a dark secret, he publishes it to make a name for himself while destroying his first mentor’s career. He then sucks the life right out of his second mentor until he is no longer needed to further his agenda. He isn’t even above backstabbing his own wife and taking much more from her than just work product. I found myself plowing through the pages because I had to know if this psychopath would finally get what he deserved. Surprisingly, this is the best book I’ve read in 2018.

John Boyne delivers an extraordinary character study delving so far into the antihero main character, Maurice Swift, that I came away feeling both awed by the product and oily with residual grime from Swift. Boyne is a master here, conducting the frog into the water and then gradually turning up the heat. The genius here is really in the way we get to know Maurice Swift. Little, gentle introductions. First through others’ eyes, one rung at a time, before we emerge into the attic space that is Maurice's mind. First rung, first-person with Erich Ackermann. The story opens through the eyes of author Erich Ackermann. It's 1988 and Erich meets Maurice Swift, a young waiter at the Savoy in West Berlin, and a precarious friendship is founded. Erich is taken with Maurice, and he soon invites Maurice on his European book tour with him to act as companion and assistant. Erich is a lonely man and through his thoughts and emotions, we are slowly introduced to Maurice—a young man who desperately wants to appear to simply be an eager would-be writer, but whose very aura suggests an undercurrent that would make Svengali envious. Second rung, third-person with Gore Vidal. Maurice is now a traveling companion to another successful author, Dash Hardy, with whom a relationship of some kind has developed off-page. Dash, fashions himself as a mentor for Maurice, and the two authors are coming for a visit to Vidal's home on the Amalfi Coast. This narration provides some of the best insight into the character of Maurice Swift. Vidal's observations are keen and sharp, cutting into Maurice in a way that set up my feelings and expectations for the rest of the novel. His awareness of Maurice's generally successful attempts at manipulation and his self-awareness of his own attractiveness—to both men and women—barely scratches the surface of what Boyne brings to this novel. Third rung, second-person with Edith Camberley, Maurice's wife. A wonderfully inspired use of second-person narration, Boyne uses Swift's wife to speak directly to Maurice and cover the course of their relationship. When it beings, it's the early 2000's and they've been married for roughly five years. Edith is also an author and, after the success of her first novel Fear, is teaching at a university in Norwich while working on her second. As you climb this segment, the anticipation is at its peak because of the past tense coupled with the second-person narrative. Edith is addressing Maurice from some point in the future, and we see how Maurice the young man has transformed into Maurice the adult. He is every point he was earlier, but honed into a fascinating display of manipulation, cunning charm, and a sardonic mind, brandished at will and at his most controlled. Fourth rung, third-person with Maurice Swift. After the brilliance of Part II with Edith, we have finally earned a spot at the table narrated by Maurice. The reader is still held at bay with third-person, but we are (at last!) privy to some of his thoughts and feelings. This section deals mainly with Maurice as a father and his relationship with his son. Way back when Maurice first met Erich, Dash, and Gore, they all in turn were told that second on Maurice's life fulfillment list was to have a child. Here, Maurice's dreams are at maximum achievement. He runs a successful quarterly magazine, Stori, and he has his child Daniel, who is seven years old here. With Maurice now, instead of insight from others' perspectives, the reader must garner what can be picked up from Maurice's conversations with various people along the way. From a young author, to Daniel's principal, and with Daniel, as well. We also finally see into Maurice's past—albeit via a flashback that is triggered by an abacus, but a tale of the beginning of the man that is Maurice Swift. Fifth and final rung, first-person with Maurice Swift. The attic door is opened now and the real Maurice Swift is revealed. It's a dirty and dank place with Swift existing as a functioning alcoholic. I honestly hesitate to call him an antihero, because I really was hoping for and anticipating his outing as a fraud. Most antiheroes evoke a sense of hope and cheer despite lacking the typical characters of a hero. I really was rooting for Maurice's ultimate downfall throughout the book. I sympathized with him at times, and identified with some aspects of his character, but ultimately I really, quite simply, hated him. However, I cannot deny his characterization was so fully fleshed out and nuanced that if he came and tapped me on the shoulder it wouldn't have been shocking—terrifying maybe, but not unbelievable. The brilliance of the novel is in this one character, and he carries the story with villainess ease. If A Ladder to the Sky is any indication of Boyne's body of work, I need to add his books to my to-read list. This was immersive, subtly executed, and exceptional—I recommend this fully.

Maurice Swift, the protagonist, is an inspiring writer who likely doesn't have the talent to succeed but he will do anything to be a famous novelist. The interesting thing about this novel is that most of the story is told from perspectives of those closest to Swift - only do we get Swift's point of view in the third part. Three parts are told from three different perspectives, and interludes are included in the third person. John Boyne once again delivers a compelling story with deep and complex characters.

This is the first novel by John Boyne that I have read. It was an intense experience. I found it to be dark and intriguing. The novel follows Maurice Swift through his writing career. There were three separate sections tied together by two interludes. The interludes were written in third person and show glimpses of Maurice's life. The longer sections are first person from the point of view of someone who is in some sort of relationship with Maurice (except the last section). Maurice has ambitions to be a great novelist but lacks the imagination needed to develop his own stories. So he takes other people's stories and is not at all remorseful. If someone shares a story, it's fair game, right? Regardless of the consequences? I read this over the course of a couple of days because I wanted to know what would happen next. That said, there were also times I had to put it down because I did not want to know what would happen next because I was worried I already knew and was not going to be okay with it! The structure of the book was really effective. This one will stay with me. I recommend it.

4.5 stars John Boyne is talented. This is the second book by him that I've read and it just seems like he is on another level when compared to the vast majority of his peers. The basic plot is fairly simple but he just somehow is able to craft a complex tale and when you are done reading you can't stop thinking about the book. Living in Berlin in the 1980s, Maurice Swift wants to be a writer. But the problem is the stories he has written aren't exactly going to set the literary world on fire. However, he's willing to do anything for fame and fortune even if it means using his manipulative charm to get what he wants. I love how the author chose to write this story, as it wasn't just told from Maurice's perspective but also from those who interacted with him. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the world of writers and publishers. I wish I was a better writer so I could do this book justice. If you are already a John Boyne fan I think you will enjoy this one. If you haven't read anything by him yet, what are you waiting for? Thank you to First to Read for the advance digital copy!

I don't recall ever reading a novel where I was so thoroughly entranced by such an unnervingly despicable protagonist. John Boyne has created a work from which I couldn't turn away. Each phase of main character Maurice Swift's life has a secret that left me with a feeling of hatred towards him that somehow left me wanting more. This book is like wasabi - I love it, so I over endulge, only left to be rocked by something that hits me between the eyes. I shake my head, then dive right back in for more. This is a fantastic book. Thanks for the advance look, PRH.

Wow. I just finished this book and my heart is still going after keeping me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the time I was reading it. Right away, this book hooked me and wouldn’t let go. This is my second John Boyne novel, my first being “The Heart’s Invisible Furies”, which I really enjoyed (there’s even a little reference to this novel somewhere in the book, which was cool to find). Set between the 1980’s to modern-day in various locations such as London, Berlin, New York City, and others, “A Ladder To The Sky” tells the story of an aspiring writer named Maurice Swift. He goes to any means possible to achieve his two life goals: to become a successful writer and to become a father. Even if it means destroying the lives of those who care about him or try to help him out. What I really enjoyed in this novel was not only the concise and witty writing, but also how the character of Swift evolves and you grow to pretty much despise this guy. I enjoyed reading this multi-dimensional story from the various viewpoints, from the people who encountered and suffered at the hands of Maurice, to third-person interludes, and ultimately to Maurice himself. This book ends up being quite cyclical in terms of character arc and plot. You can’t help but wonder if Maurice is ever going to be brought down. One shocking event after another is paced wonderfully throughout this book, and I never felt like any part of the story was too short or drawn-out. The ending was extremely satisfying as well and was a perfect ending to summarize all of the events beforehand. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a gripping novel that keeps you riveted for what happens next. I look forward to reading more novels by Boyne in the future, and I definitely recommend this book. Thanks so much, First to Read, for letting me read this in advance in exchange for an honest review!

Enter the world of Maurice Swift at your own risk: John Boyne's despicable protagonist is your garden variety sociopath... who happens to be a writer. A LADDER TO THE SKY is a dark and twisted tale of a man who will stop at nothing to become world renowned. At times, Boyne's sardonic portrait feels like a pointed jab at "real" acclaimed writers who perhaps aren't as talented as one might think. It also shines a light on literary appropriation: who does a story really belong to until it is written? In the case of Maurice Swift, a mercurial, charming deviant, we are introduced to a would-be writer who can craft a great sentence yet has no imagination of his own and must beg, borrow and steal ideas, stories and entire manuscripts from others to achieve success. Along the way he commits unspeakable acts, crimes so heinous you may feel the need to scrub your hands with a good anti-bacterial soap after reading. Boyne's own writerly craft is admirable in the telling of this unsavory story. Wisely, he avoids Maurice's point of view until the very last chapter. The path to Maurice's dubious success, the so called "ladder to the sky", is narrated by his victims along the way with one famous real-life literary great, (guest appearance by an acerbic Gore Vidal), the only person who recognizes Swift's duplicity. John Boyne has written a real page-turner here and I could certainly see a film adaptation or limited series being made from it, although Hollywood would likely steer the ship away from writers and make it about actors or politicians, something with more commercial appeal. A LADDER TO THE SKY is overall an entertaining read. At times the reader must suspend belief and swallow the fate of these wool-eyed victims - How could they not see this guy for what he is? - and the precocious interrogator towards the end is a bit improbable - How exactly did he gain access and connect the dots, seriously? But that being said, I'd recommend this book to anyone in search of a villain to abhor. ***Thank you to Pengiun Random House for a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for a candid review.***

Maurice Swift is the most loathsome protagonist, and I was smitten with his vileness. John Boyne has created another masterpiece with Ladder to the Sky. Maurice, self-centered beyond redemption, is an aspiring writer. The barrier to his success is that he lacks the talent of original thought. Blessed with movie star good looks, Maurice charms older, esteemed writers into becoming his mentors, using them for what he can, then dumping them, often with devastating consequences. As the novel progresses, Maurice’s ambition grows into a monster that he must keep feeding. John Boyne is a rare author who has created such a despicable main character who also captures the reader’s enthusiasm. Maurice’s shamelessness is juxtaposed with his victims’ inexplicable adoration which creates tension that never waivers. The ending is a resounding smash. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Penguin First to Read for this advance copy in exchange for my review.

"There's something in all our pasts that we wouldn't want to be revealed. And that's where you'll find your story." Maurice is a man without a conscience who always knew that he wanted to be a writer and a father. It would take him a while to become a father, but the writing started early and he was pretty good at it, once he found a story. When he was 15 he learned that he could exchange sex, or the promise of sex, for stories and that skill served him well. "Maurice is whatever he needs to be, whenever he needs to be it." The darker this book became, the more I liked it. It was a mix of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "All About Eve". The book is broken into parts focused on several of Maurice's novels, but some of my favorite things in the book are in two "interludes". That's where there is some of the more outrageous satire of the literary scene. The interlude in which he visits the Italian home of Gore Vidal is particularly delicious. Actually, it made me want to read some Vidal. I didn't really enjoy myself the last time I tried to read this author, but I'm very glad that I gave him another chance because I liked this book a lot. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Ambition is generally seen as a positive thing, but when a necessary component, such as talent, is missing as it is for one character in A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, the path to success and fame can be filled with manipulation.  A handsome and charming man, Maurice Swift believes that he is destined for great things, if only it weren't for his lack of talent. Undeterred by a key component to creative success, Maurice manages to befriend and benefit from the stories that other writers tell about their lives or generic plots they have yet to develop into a novel. Starting off his cycle of appropriating other people's ideas is a chance encounter with author Erich Ackermann in 1988, where Maurice was able to ingratiate himself into his life as an assistant for Erich's latest book tour and slowly tease out an incredibly personal war story that he later uses for his well-received book. Having experienced the glories of literary success, Maurice continues to find ways to continue capturing that high, deceiving and manipulating many people along the way. A detestable character and an engaging plot drive this story that's comprised of well-crafted prose. Covering a wide range of time, the narrative demonstrates the lengths, sometimes extreme, that Maurice has gone, and is willing to go to, in order to secure the level of notoriety he believes he deserves from writing and within the publishing industry. While the three parts of the novel work well together to create a cohesive representation of Maurice at the end, when initially reading through I found that the perspectives of Erich and Maurice's wife Edith were tonally so distinct that they greatly impacted the pacing and felt as if they belonged to a different story altogether.  Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

I had never read anything by John Boyne previously but was intrigued by the synopsis. The book does not disappoint. It is deftly written and engrossing. It was difficult to grasp the tone entirely at first and certainly the section in Edith's voice is tough but if you enjoy a portrait of a true narcissist, it is a perfect case study. I would definitely like to read more of his books.

Wow what a story! Maurice who will and does sell his soul to be a successful writer. A couple of the twists in the plot made me grasp with surprise and shock. It’s a sad and demented tale. I found it odd how the author is able to draw you into Maurice’s story even as despicable as he is. I kept hoping he would learn his lesson but he doesn’t. Thank you to First To Read and Penguin Random House for another great ARC.

A Ladder to the Sky is a somewhat interesting tale of an unprincipled, manipulative would-be novelist who really has no talent for fiction. Rather he cannibalizes the individuals who he gets close to for their stories in his single-minded pursuit of literary fame and glory. Although he may make for a fascinating case study, the main character here clearly is not someone you would want to know. Interesting book, not particularly to my taste however.

Wow! I am amazed at all of the despicable characters trying to climb the ladder of success in John Boyne’s latest novel, A Ladder to the Sky. Maurice Swift is especially evil as a young and older novelist who preys on other writers to find, steal and murder for the purpose of being well-known among authors. John Boyne does an excellent job of transitioning from one time period to another in this excellent novel.

I’ve read several of John Boyne’s books so thought I’d give this one a try. At first, I wasn’t hooked but thought I’d stick with it a little longer. I’m glad I did. Maurice Swift is a despicable human being which makes him very interesting. You know how authors are always asked ‘Where do you get your ideas’? That question may have well been the inspiration for this book as we learn where Maurice gets his ideas.

I had never read anything by John Boyne but I was very intrigued by a blurb mentioning a Highsmith-esque story. I was taken by the story from the first page. The plot moved quickly and the literary references throughout made me either feel well-read when I "got" the reference or unread when I didn't. Maurice's character kept me engaged as a reader in terms of what he'd do next, and as an optimist with the hopes that he would develop a conscience. I love books that make me think about right and wrong and good and evil. Obviously, I was dissecting Maurice's character throughout the book, but I also thought extensively about Erich's character.

I enjoyed “A Ladder to the Sky.” The plot held my attention, and I particularly appreciated the different forms of each section. The seamless prose and realistic (often humorous) dialogue helped to maintain narrative momentum. While the central character, Maurice, strains credibility at times, his portrait fits with the general tone of the novel, which caricatures litererary aspiration. I also think that this novel is a good book club pick because members could debate the morality (or lack thereof) of several characters. This was my first John Boyne but won’t be my last.

A Ladder to the Sky is about one man's ruthless climb to become a famous writer and the lives he ruins on his way to the top. I loved the pace of the novel, the little details the author weaves into the story, and the different perspectives of narrators given all revolving around the main protagonist, Maurice. Maurice so desperately wants to be a famous writer. He is young, beautiful, charismatic and has a way with words but is cursed with no imagination. He couldn't create a plot to save his life and many of his original stories are terribly bland and un-publishable. This does not stop him from doing all he can to rise to fame, just pushes him to find interesting plots in other ways, even if he didn't come up with them on his own. The author navigates us through his not so humble beginnings and lets us examine the life of Maurice and the monster he becomes along his road to fame. I hated this character but i couldn't stop reading because i had no way of knowing how this story would end.. so on and on I read and was increasingly become more troubled with what I found. It was brilliant though. I really enjoyed this book and I really enjoyed hating Maurice. John Boyne is such a gifted novelist, his storytelling capabilities are clearly evident withing the first chapter. I own one of John Boynes other novels and after reading A Ladder to the Sky, i can't wait to enjoy more of his writing style. Highly recommend this book.

My thought A ladder to the sky is an extraordinary read. The writing flows, the prose is beautiful, the characters are well developed. Elegant comes to my mind, an elegant delivery of words. The ruthless driven protagonist Maurice, is a joy to behold, watching him play his victims without scruples, helpless in his greedy youthful fingers. No doubts hinder his way to become the next literary genius. In a chapter which takes Maurice to La Rondinaia. an exchange between Gore Vidal and Maurice is pure genius in the hands of John Boyne author of A ladder To the Sky. A must read!

A Ladder to the Sky is the first John Boyne book I have read and was unsure what to expect. At the start, I almost put the book down thinking that somehow I picked up a gay romance novel. It is not and turned into an engaging story. Maurice Swift is a man of great ambition and little talent but aspires to be a novelist. He leaches on to talented people and tosses them away when he is finished. Swift builds his career and lives on the creativity of others. There is no real action of excitement in the book, but it flows seamlessly cover to cover. Maurice is cold and calculating, and although it is told by several points of view, it reads like a confession. A Ladder to the Sky is a book that is difficult to put down and hard to classify.


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