“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.
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2018 John Boyne
From the moment I accepted the invitation, I was nervous about returning to Germany. It had been so many years since I’d last been there, after all, that it was difficult to know what memories might be stirred up by my return.
It was the spring of 1988, the year the word “perestroika” entered the language, and I was seated in the bar of the Savoy Hotel on Fasanenstraße, contemplating my sixty-sixth birthday, which was only a few weeks away. On the table before me, a bottle of Riesling had been decanted into a coupe glass that, a note in the menu revealed, had been modeled on the left breast of Marie-Antoinette. It was very good, one of the costlier wines on the hotel’s expansive list, but I felt no guilt in ordering it for my publisher had assured me that they were content to cover all my expenses. This level of generosity was something new to me. My writing career, which had begun more than thirty-five years earlier and produced six short novels and an ill-advised collection of poetry, had never been successful. None of my books had attracted many readers, despite generally positive reviews, nor had they garnered much international attention. However, to my great surprise, I had won an important literary award the previous autumn for my sixth novel, Dread. In the wake of The Prize, the book sold rather well and was translated into numerous languages. The disinterest that had generally greeted my work was soon replaced by admiration and critical study, while the literary pages argued over who could claim credit for my renaissance. Suddenly I found myself invited to literary festivals and being asked to undertake book tours in foreign countries. Berlin was the location for one such event, a monthly reading series at the Literaturhaus, and although I had been born there, it did not feel like home.
I grew up close to the Tiergarten, where I played in the shadow of statues of Prussian aristocrats. As a small child, I was a regular visitor to the zoo and fantasized about being a keeper there some day. At the age of sixteen, I stood with some friends from the Hitlerjugend, each of us wearing our swastika armbands, and we cheered as Begas’s Memorial to Bismarck arrived in the heart of the park from outside the Reichstag as part of Hitler’s plans for a Welthaupstadt Germania. A year later, I stood alone on Unter den Linden as thousands of Wehrmacht soldiers paraded before us following the successful annexation of Poland. Ten months after that I found myself in the third row of a rally at the Lustgarten, surrounded by soldiers my own age, saluting and swearing our fealty to the Führer, who roared at us from a platform erected in front of the Dom of a Thousand-year Reich.
Finally leaving the Fatherland in 1946, I was accepted as an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge, where I read English Literature, before spending several uneasy years as a teacher at a local grammar school, my accent the source of much derision by boys whose families had been traumatized and depleted by four decades of armed conflicts and unstable reconciliations between our two countries. Upon completion of my doctorate, however, I won a place on the faculty of King’s College, where I was treated as something of a curiosity, a fellow who had been dragged from the ranks of a murderous Teutonic generation and adopted by a noble British institution that, in victory, was prepared to be magnanimous. Within a decade I was rewarded with a professorship and the security and respectability attached to that title made me feel safe for the first time since childhood, assured of a home and a position for the remainder of my days.
When being introduced to new people, however, the parents of my students, say, or some visiting benefactor, it was often remarked that I was “also a novelist,” the addendum both discomfiting and embarrassing to me. Of course, I hoped that I had some modicum of talent and longed for a wider readership but my standard reply to the inevitable question Would I know any of your books? was Probably not. Typically, new acquaintances might ask me to name some of my novels and I would do so in anticipation of humiliation, observing the blank expressions on their faces as I listed them in chronological order.
That night, the night of which I speak, I had endured a difficult evening at the Literaturhaus, where I had taken part in a public interview with a journalist from Die Zeit. Uncomfortable with speaking German, a language I had all but abandoned upon my arrival in England more than forty years earlier, an actor had been hired to read a chapter of my novel aloud to the audience and, when I told him the particular section that I’d chosen, he shook his head and demanded to be allowed to read from the penultimate chapter instead. Of course, I argued with him, for the piece he suggested contained revelations that were intended to come as a surprise to the reader. No, I insisted, growing irritated by the arrogance of this disenfranchised Hamlet, who, after all, had been hired simply to stand up, read aloud and then depart by the back door. No, I told him, raising my voice. Not that one. This one.
The actor took great offence. It seemed that he had a process when reading to an audience and it was as rigorous as his preparations might be for an evening on the stage of the Schaubühne. I thought he was being precious and said so and there were raised voices, which upset me. Finally, he acquiesced, but without grace, and I retained enough German to know that his reading was halfhearted, lacking the theatricality required to engage an audience. As I walked the short distance back to the hotel afterward, I felt disillusioned with the whole business and longed for home.
I had noticed the boy earlier, a young man of about twenty-two carrying drinks to the tables, for he was very beautiful and it seemed that he had been glancing in my direction as I drank my wine. A startling idea formed in my mind that he was drawn to me physically, even though I knew that such a notion was absurd. I was old, after all, and had never been particularly attractive, not even at his age, when most people have the magnetism of youth to compensate for any physical inadequacies. Since the success of Dread and my subsequent elevation to the ranks of literary celebrity, newspaper portraits had invariably described my face as “lived in” or as “one that has seen its share of troubles,” although thankfully they did not know just how deep those troubles ran. I felt no sting from such remarks, however, for I had no personal vanity and had long ago given up on the idea of romance. The yearnings that had threatened to annihilate me throughout my youth had diminished over the years, my virginity never conquered, and the relief that accompanied lust’s exile was akin to how one might feel having been unshackled from a wild horse let loose on prairie ground. This proved a great benefit to me, for, confronted by an endless stream of handsome youths year after year in the lecture halls of King’s College, some of whom flirted shamelessly with me in the hope of receiving better grades, I found myself indifferent to their charms, eschewing vulgar fantasies or embarrassing attachments for a sort of distant avuncularism. I played no favorites, adopted no protégés, and gave no one cause to suspect impure motives within my pedagogical activities. And so it came as something of a surprise to find myself staring at the young waiter and feeling such intense desire for him.
Pouring another glass of wine, I reached for the bag that I’d left next to my chair, a leather satchel that contained my diary and two books, an English-language edition of Dread and an advance copy of a novel by an old friend that was due to be published a few months later. I picked up where I had left off, perhaps a third of the way through the book, but found myself unable to concentrate. This was not a problem that I normally faced and I looked up from the pages to ask myself why. The bar was not particularly noisy. There was really no reason that I could think of to explain my lack of focus. And then, as the young waiter passed me, the sweet and intoxicating scent of boyish perspiration infusing the air, I realized that he was the cause of my distraction. He had stolen into my consciousness, nefarious fellow, and was refusing to surrender his place. I set the novel to one side and watched as he cleared a nearby table before wiping it down with a damp towel, replacing the coasters and relighting the votive candle.
He wore the standard Savoy uniform of dark trousers, white shirt and an elegant maroon waistcoat emblazoned with the hotel’s insignia. He was of average height and regular build, and his skin was smooth, as if it rarely knew the pull of a razor. He had full red lips, strong eyebrows and a mop of unruly dark hair that looked as if it would fight with all the resolve of three hundred Spartans at the Pass of Thermopylae against any comb that attempted to tame it. He recalled to me Caravaggio’s portrait of the young Minniti, a painting I had always admired. Above all else, however, there was that unmistakable spark of youth about him, a powerful blend of vitality and impulsive sexuality, and I wondered how he spent his time when he was not on duty at the Savoy. I believed him to be good and decent and kind. And all this despite the fact that we had not, as yet, exchanged a single word.
I tried to return to my book but it was lost to me now and so I reached for my diary to remind myself of what the following months held in store. There was a publicity trip to Copenhagen and another to Rome. A festival in Madrid and a series of interviews in Paris. An invitation to New York and a request for me to take part in a series of curated readings in Amsterdam. Between each visit, of course, I would return to Cambridge, where I had been granted a year’s leave of absence to pursue my unexpected promotional opportunities.
A bored voice interrupted my fantasies, an insolent noise enquiring whether there was anything else that I needed, and I looked up irritably as the young man’s older colleague, overweight and with dark bags beneath his eyes, stood before me. I glanced at the Riesling, which was almost empty—had I really drunk an entire bottle of wine alone?—and shook my head, certain that it was time for bed. “But tell me,” I said, hoping that my eagerness would not be a cause for humiliation. “The boy who was serving earlier. Is he still here? I wanted to thank him.”
“His shift ended ten minutes ago,” he replied. “I expect he’s gone home by now.”
I tried not to let my disappointment show. It had been so long since I’d felt such a powerful and unexpected attraction to anyone that I didn’t know how to act when thwarted. I was uncertain what I wanted from him but then what does one want from the Mona Lisa or the statue of David other than to sit silently in their presence and appreciate their enigmatic beauty? I was due to return home the following afternoon so could not even plan a surreptitious visit to the bar the following night. It was over; I would not see him again.
Something like a sigh escaped me and I might have laughed at my own foolishness but there was no laughter inside me now, just longing and regret. The solitude I’d endured throughout my life had stopped being painful many years before but now, without warning, it had reared its head again and old, forgotten heartaches sought my attention. My thoughts turned to Oskar Gött and the single year of our acquaintance. If I closed my eyes I could see his face before me still, his complicit smile, his deep blue eyes, and the arch of his back as he lay asleep in the guesthouse in Potsdam on the weekend of our bicycling holiday. If I concentrated I could recall the anxiety I’d felt that he should wake and discover my indecency.
And then, to my surprise, I was interrupted once again. I looked up and there was the young waiter, now changed into a pair of dark jeans, a casual shirt with two buttons undone at the neck and a leather jacket with a fur trim around the collar. He carried a woolen hat in his hands.
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” he said, and I knew immediately that he was not German as I’d assumed but English, his voice betraying echoes of Yorkshire or the Lake District. “It’s Mr. Erich Ackermann, isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” I said, surprised that he should know my name. “May I shake your hand?”
He reached out. The skin on his palm looked soft and I noticed how neatly trimmed were his nails. A fastidious creature, I thought. He wore a plain silver band on the middle finger of his right hand.
“Certainly,” I said, a little bewildered by this turn of events. “We don’t know each other, though, do we?”
“No, but I’m a great admirer,” he said. “I’ve read all your books. I read them before Dread came out too so I’m not just jumping on the bandwagon.”
“That’s very kind of you,” I said, trying to conceal my delight. “Very few people have.”
“Very few people are interested in art,” he replied.
“That’s true,” I agreed. “But the lack of an audience should never be a deterrent to the artist.”
“I’ve even read your book of poems,” he added, and I grimaced. “They were ill advised,” I said.
“I disagree,” he said, quoting a line from one that made me hold my hands in the air, pleading with him to stop. He beamed then, and laughed, displaying wonderfully white teeth. As he did so, a slight crinkle appeared beneath his eyes. He was so very beautiful.
“And your name?” I asked, pleased to have an opportunity to stare at him.
“Maurice,” he replied. “Maurice Swift.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Maurice,” I replied. “It’s nice to know that there are still some young people who are interested in literature.”
“I wanted to study it at university,” he said. “But my parents couldn’t afford to send me. That’s why I came to Berlin. To get away from them and earn my own money.”
He spoke with a certain bitterness in his tone but stopped himself before he could say anything more. I was surprised by how dramatic he had become, and how quickly.
“I wonder whether you might let me buy you a drink,” he continued. “I’d love to ask you some questions about your work.”
“I’d be delighted,” I said, thrilled by the opportunity to spend some time with him. “Please, Maurice, take a seat. But I’ll have to insist that they’re charged to my room. I couldn’t possibly allow you to pay.”
He looked around and shook his head. “I’m not allowed to drink here,” he said. “Employees aren’t permitted to socialize on the premises. If they catch me, I’ll get fired. I shouldn’t even be talking to you, in fact.”
“Ah,” I said, putting my glass down and checking my watch. It was only ten o’clock; there was plenty of time until the bars closed. “Well, perhaps we could go somewhere else, then? I’d hate to get you into trouble.”
“I would love that,” he said. “I slipped into your interview earlier for about twenty minutes when I was on my break. I was hoping to hear you talk but an actor was reading from Dread and not doing a very good job of it, I thought.”
“He was annoyed that I’d chosen a section for him to read that he didn’t like.”
“But it’s your novel,” said Maurice, frowning. “What business was it of his?”
“That’s what I thought,” I replied. “But he had different ideas.”
“Well, by the time I had to come back here he was still reading so I didn’t get to hear you answer any questions and there were so many that I would have liked to ask. You did have something of a scowl on your face all the way through, Mr. Ackermann.”
I laughed. “Let’s just say it was not an entirely pleasant evening,” I said. “Although it has brightened up considerably now. And please, call me Erich.”
“But I insist.”
“Erich, then,” he said quietly, testing out the word on his tongue and looking, I thought, a little nervous. Perhaps it was my ego or my awoken desires or a combination of the two that made me happy to feel the stream of veneration making its delicate journey from his lips to my ears. “You’re sure that you want to go out?” he asked me. “I don’t want to intrude upon your time. You’re not too tired?”
“I’m not tired at all,” I said, even though I was quite exhausted from an early flight and the disappointing event. “Please, lead the way. I daresay you know the city better than I do.”
Standing up, I cursed myself for the slight groan that emerged from my mouth as my limbs adjusted to being erect once again and, without planning to do so, reached across and held on to him by the upper arm for a moment. The muscle was hard and tightened beneath my grip.
“Where shall we go?” I asked, and he named a bar on the other side of the Tiergarten, close to the Brandenburg Gate. I felt a momentary hesitation, as this would bring us close to the ruined Reich- stag, a place I did not particularly care to revisit, but nodded. I could not risk him changing his mind.
“It’s not far,” he said, perhaps sensing my reluctance. “Ten minutes if we take a taxi. And it’s usually pretty quiet at this time of night. We can talk without having to shout over the noise.”
“Splendid,” I said. “Lead on.”
And as we made our way through the hotel doors he uttered the phrase that I usually dreaded but which now, inexplicably, sent waves of excitement through my body.
“I’m a writer too,” he said, sounding a little embarrassed at the revelation, as if he’d admitted to a desire to fly to the moon. “Or I’m trying to be, anyway.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
John Boyne could write a 500 page play-by-play account of the sleeping habits of the maned three-toed sloth that inhabits the Atlantic Forest of Brazil using only words that start with the letter and I have no doubt that it would be anything less than a compelling example of literary excellence. As is the norm in Boyne's stories, this book features a captivating protagonist, this time his name is Maurice Swift, a narcissist and quite possibly a psychopath, as such, he is a man willing to go to any lengths required to achieve his goal of becoming the most famous fiction writer in the world. You see, while Maurice is indeed an incredible writer, he lacks one important prerequisite for attaining the notoriety he so desperately seeks, he can't come up with an interesting plot to save his life. Being devoid of imagination, Maurice resorts to using the stories of others to achieve his goal, with no remorse for the lives he destroys along the way, and ultimately, including his own. I dare say that nobody develops a character as intimately as Boyne. His protagonists are invariably so believable and relatable that you often feel like you are reading a biography rather than a novel. If you've never had the pleasure of reading a book by John Boyne, I cannot recommend enough that you remedy that situation immediately while you await the release of this gem. He is, arguably, the best writer of his (and mine) generation and certainly my favorite. I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
If you can get your hands on a book by John Boyne, do it. I’ve read four, and they are all great. Now I’ve read another, A LADDER TO THE SKY, and it proves once again what a master he is at writing both plot- and character-driven literature. Every sentence is so well written I wanted to reread it. This novel is about a bad guy, a really, really bad guy, a psycho: Maurice. He lurks among the writing community. He fancies himself a great Prize [sic]-worthy author of fiction. And he is a good writer, but his stories are boring. So he cannot become a recognized author who can at least get on the short list for The Prize [sic] unless, as he sees it, he inserts himself into the lives of successful authors. He uses and abuses, as the saying goes. And he’ll do anything. (I capitalized "The Prize" because it is spelled that way in the book.) Through his characters, Boyne often says what I often say when I review a book: the writing may be good, but that is not enough. A good book is also driven by a plot. Without that, the book is boring. And that is Maurice’s problem: he cannot come up with plots. He needs story ideas. And he’ll stop at nothing. A LADDER TO THE SKY is, in a way, difficult to read because one bad thing after another happens. Now and then, though, someone is wise to Maurice. Unfortunately, his beauty attracts both men and women, so he gets away with years of exploitation. Do yourself a favor and read A LADDER TO THE SKY.
A Ladder to the Sky is a brilliant piece of historical fiction written by John Boyne. After reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies, I instantly fell in love with this John Boyne’s prose and this latest book did not disappoint. Book Summary: “I want to be a success. It’s all that matters to me. I’ll do whatever it takes to succeed.” Maurice Swift is a man of his word. Maurice Swift is a fascinating yet talentless, fame-climber and egotist who preys upon others to elevate himself as a writer. Once given a taste of fame as a writer, Maurice proves that he’ll stop at nothing to climb higher and higher. Not caring who his devices affect or the turmoil and ruined lives he leaves in his path, Maurice will stop at nothing to catapult himself to the fame he believes he deserves. Will Maurice ever climb high enough to satisfy his ego and is there a price to be paid for the devastation he leaves in your wake? My Opinion: I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend it. It is both well written and has phenomenal characterizations. You’ll love some of the characters and despise others but the juxtaposition of them is quite intriguing and brilliant. The plot is both unexpected and original with multiple parts told from multiple points of view; which is no easy feat and it’s done to perfection. I thought this book was unputdownable and I just couldn’t read the pages fast enough. I needed to know what Maurice would do next. Also, a fan of John Boyne’s other work, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, I appreciated the nod to Boyne’s fictional character, Maude Avery in the book as well. “And you’ve heard the old proverb about ambition, haven’t you?” He shook his head. “That it’s like setting a ladder to the sky.” The Ladder to the Sky is a brilliant, well-written, unputdownable work of historical fiction. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Synopsis from the Publisher/NetGalley.com 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.
Best book I have read in a long time!
John Boyne has a reputation as an excellent storyteller and I would say after reading this book that it is well deserved. This is the story of Maurice Swift, a handsome but despicable man, a psychopath, whose ambition is to be a successful writer and make the shortlist for the Prize: "It's all that matters to me. I'll do whatever it takes to succeed." He can indeed write quite well but unfortunately he never has an original thought of his own and so must steal the ideas and stories of others. He is a man with absolutely no conscience and, as we learn, he will stop at nothing to get what he wants--even if he destroys himself in the process. The title comes from something that he quotes as an old proverb about ambition: "That it's like setting a ladder to the sky. A pointless waste of energy." Whenever one hears about the extreme efforts criminals go through to commit their crimes, one has to wonder what they could have accomplished if they'd put their time, talents and energy to better use. And so it is with Maurice. I received an arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. It is my introduction to John Boyne's writing and I am so grateful for having been given the opportunity.
Maurice Swift is one of the most cunning and despicable characters I've read about in long time. He gives new meaning to the word narcissistic. John Boyne has easily become one of my favorite authors and time and again surprises me with each new book. Highly recommend for fans of the unpredictable.
Many thanks to Netgalley, Crown Publishing and John Boyne for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advanced copy. Get ready to dive into a tale of deceit and subterfuge as you discover what make Maurice Swift tick. All Maurice wants to be is a writer. A writer and a father. But not just any writer, a famous bestselling, award winning author. He is an excellent writer, the only problem is that he doesn’t have any original ideas - not even one. Maurice’s ambition is not going to let a little thing like that stop him. Why should it? By using people, stealing their stories and leaving a trail of crushed spirits (and bodies) behind him, he manages to publish successful novels. How far will he go? Will he commit the ultimate sin to get his story? This character reminds me a bit of “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. As I learned more about Maurice, I realized this wasn’t so much an arc of this character’s descent into evil, rather, he is so cold, calculated, and unfeeling, with psychopathic tendencies, that I realized he doesn’t have a moral centre at all. His wife, Edith, wonders if he ever loved her. She couldn’t believe that even in the beginning it wasn’t a real love. The relationship with his son really illustrates how he is incapable of emotion. Claiming he always wanted a son as much as he wanted to become a writer, he finds a surrogate and along comes Daniel. Daniel is a perfect child, but reality does not live up to what Maurice thinks and he says that “he always had expected to feel unadulterated love for a child…but things hadn’t quite worked out that way”. No parental feelings of love developed, even his own child can’t stir his heart. Psychopaths can only copy the outward actions of people, because they don’t have the emotions to guide them. Watching Maurice’s story unfold and following his rise and fall is thrilling and beautiful. Boyle has a unique voice. I love the way this was written. Suspenseful, but not in a whodunit kind of way. It flows beautifully and I was so excited to keep reading. The characters are rich, well drawn and you can’t help but feel for Maurice’s victims, even those who should have known better. My heart broke for Erich, Dash, Edith, but mostly for Daniel. Gore Vidal was delicious. Yes, Maurice doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, but I was still drawn in by him. His ability to pick his targets and like a spider, spin a web that they are powerless to escape from. The ending was completely satisfying, everything I could hope for. This was just a great read and I enjoyed every bit of it.
This was an incredible, fabulous book, destined to become one of the top books of 2018. It follows young writer Maurice as he manipulates his way into literary success. The way ambition, especially young beautiful ambition, is portrayed is never false. Boyne's prose is delicious, I want to live in his world.
"Everyone has secrets. There is something in all our pasts that we wouldn't want to be revealed and that's where you'll find your story." Maurice Swift now has my vote for one of the most ruthless men in literature. He will stop at nothing in order to get ahead. John Boyne, A Ladder to the Sky, shows us a character bound and determined to get a published novel even though he doesn't have any original plot ideas. He does, however, manages to put together a story that makes him climb to the top of the charts. But how he does that is most questionably a matter of ethics that will have you turning the pages quickly. This is my second John Boyne book but will not be my last. His writing flows very easy and makes for a quick and fascinating read. If you haven't read any of Boyne's novels, A Ladder to the Sky, is a great place to start. I'm sure you will not be disappointed and will find yourself a new author to follow. I would like to thank NetGalley and Hogarth Publishing for suppling me with a copy of this book for an honest review.
Oh Yes. Another 5 Star Winner! Oh the power of beauty....and John Boyne's addictive writing....once again. Meet Maurice Swift....you won't forget him! He wants to be a famous author. He's just a young man of 17 when first introduced, but is already hungry for attention and fame from the literary world.....AND, oh yeah, he is a downright heart throbbing, mesmerizing beauty of a man....desired by both species....and dam well knows it! As this bloodsucking worm of a human being manipulates his way throughout his sorry life to get what he wants, many lives are ruined, devastating secrets revealed and horrors committed for the purpose of self-achievement. HE WILL DO ANYTHING! LIE...CHEAT...STEAL...BETRAY...and even WORSE! I once watched a movie (with Julia Roberts) where she said she was lower than pond scum and her cohort said she was WORSE....she was the pus that infects the mucus that feeds on the pond scum or something like that. Well, Maurice is even WORSE than that.....MUCH WORSE! A LADDER TO THE SKY is a shocking and sad story with many dark moments, but oh the writing and oh the characters. My gosh what Rebecca does, and poor Erich, what he did as a young teen was indeed horrific, but I admit to feeling a bit sorry for him as an old man. As the story moves along, the reader can feel what's coming as Maurice becomes the very WORST of himself.....over and over. But then we have the policewoman scene. The dialogue here absolutely cracked me up! AND, I must at least mention Theo and his thesis....HA! AND oh boy the ending....No. No. No. No. No. No. No. It just can't be! Boyne's THE HEARTS INVISIBLE FURIES was by far my favorite read of 2017. Will A LADDER TO THE SKY be No. 1 for 2018? Only four months to go.
Take a bow John Boyne! I am just in awe of John Boyne's prowess as an author. This book really held my interest and, even though it wasn't one of those action-packed thrillers, kept me enthralled. I read The Heart's Invisible Furies by Boyne this month as well and both books are exceptional. This is the story of a driven, ambitious man who will stop at nothing to succeed. His actions are cold and heartless and he sees only his goals and manipulates other people until he gets what he wants. He doesn't care who he hurts. The people left in his wake are many. It is interesting to see how he makes his way through life and the results of his actions. The characters are very realistic and my heart went out to those who Maurice used and betrayed on his climb up the ladder. If I had to label him I would guess narcissistic sociopath. What a great character to hate! I highly recommend this book. Many thanks to John Boyne and Crown Publishing through Netgalley for the advance copy.
Maurice Swift has excellent writing skills. The problem is that Maurice has no imagination and writes boring stories. Maurice is well aware that he lacks talent with story telling and so he steals other people’s stories. Maurice’s first victim is a celebrated novelist, Erich Ackermann. He meets Erich when he is working as a bartender in a Berlin hotel that Erich is staying at. Maurice ingratiates himself with Erich and takes advantage of the fact that Erich is gay (but in the closet) by leading him on and making him think that Maurice has romantic feelings for him. While they get to know each other, Erich confesses to Maurice about something horrific he did as a young man that no one knows. Maurice turns around and writes a novel using this confession as the arc of a storyline and becomes a bestselling novelist. Subsequently, when Maurice writes novels using his own storylines, the books are inevitably flops so he just keeps stealing other people’s stories but he does it in such horrible, conniving ways. Earlier this year, I read my first John Boyne book, The Heart’s Invisible Furies which I loved. While the two books have very different storylines, the story in A Ladder to the Sky is just as compelling. I very much enjoyed this book and will continue reading John’s backlist.
Dark, seductive, and skillfully menacing! A Ladder to the Sky is a character-driven, psychological thrill ride involving the ruthlessly ambitious Maurice Swift who has no qualms about using his handsomeness, charm, lack of conscience, and sociopathic tendencies in his ceaseless pursuit to become the world-class, successful writer he knows he can be. The prose is unsettling and controlled. The characters, including the sinister, impulsive protagonist are consumed, complex, and vulnerable. And the brilliantly crafted plot builds nicely to create the perfect amount of tension and suspense as it unravels all the duplicitous motivations, manipulative actions, questionable personalities, and parasitic relationships within it. A Ladder to the Sky is an eerily compelling, darkly humorous, tragic novel that transports you to some of the biggest cities in the world and immerses you in a tale full of creative, eccentric, often self-absorbed characters that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. It’s a truly memorable novel by Boyne that highlights his extraordinary talent as a storyteller and his uncanny ability to lay bare humanities weaknesses and emotional vulnerabilities while still poking fun at an industry very close to his heart.
” Oh, got no reason, got no shame Got no family I can't blame Just don't let me disappear I'mma tell you everything ”Tell me what you want to hear Something that will light those ears Sick of all the insincere I'm gonna give all my secrets away This time, don't need another perfect lie Don't care if critics ever jump in line I'm gonna give all my secrets away” -- Secrets, OneRepublic, Songwriters: Ryan Tedder "'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly." - Mary Howitt “That great poets imitate and improve, whereas small ones steal and spoil.” - W. H. Davenport Adams Secrets and Lies, Ambition, Lust and Greed Ambition can be a good quality within limits, but when it becomes the focus of a life, then it tends to consume anything and everything in its path, and when it is done consuming anything, everything and everyone in its path, it will turn on the one that is left – the ambitious one. In the spring of 1988, Erich Ackermann, now in his mid-sixties, returns to Berlin on invitation, a book tour. It is different now, Berlin, but that doesn’t stop him from seeing the Germany of his youth everywhere he looks, and so the memories seep back in. These are not altogether pleasant memories, and it has been taking a toll on his mood. For now, he is seated in the hotel’s bar, watching the beautiful young man bringing drinks to the tables, and believes the boy is glancing his way now and then, and he wonders if the boy is attracted to him, and contemplates his feelings on that for a while, setting his novel aside. This beautiful young man is Maurice Swift, a boy-man who has aspirations to be a writer – if only he had a story to tell, a story as shocking and compelling as Erich Ackermann, or even an idea for a story. Will his ambition fuel his success or will his ambition prove to be his destruction? There are other characters in this novel, Gore Vidal being one, a point in the novel where it moves to Vidal’s home on the Amalfi Coast. While the first part is told through Ackermann, the second part is narrated through Vidal. As this story goes along, the tension builds, slowly at first, and by the time I reached the halfway point, I thought I knew where this was going, although I was not wrong, I never expected how this delightful, but disturbing, story would end. Boyne’s story flows effortlessly, the writing is lovely, and while I loved different sections with varying degrees of love, overall this was such an incredibly engaging story of a contemptible character that I will not soon forget. Many thanks for the ARC provided by Crown Publishing / Hogarth