A Ladder to the Sky: Book summary and reviews of A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

A Ladder to the Sky

A Novel

by John Boyne

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne X
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Nov 13, 2018
    0 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of success.

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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Media Reviews

"As with Boyne's last novel, there is humour amid the darkness. He gently satirises the publishing world, not least the vagaries of prizes, the insincerity of writers meeting on the festival circuit, and the endless array of new books requiring endorsements....In Maurice Swift, Boyne has given us an unforgettable protagonist, dangerous and irresistible in equal measure. The result is an ingeniously conceived novel that confirms Boyne as one of the most assured writers of his generation." - The Guardian

"The book is irresistibly readable, both darkly funny and a suspenseful page-turner, and with many sardonic things to say about the pursuit of fame and about the literary world and its rivalries. 'You know writers', Maurice observes near the end. 'They can be merciless in how they use each other to get to the top. I'm surprised more of them don't kill each other.'" - The Irish Independent

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Reader Reviews

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Anita P. (Baltimore, MD)

Boyne is Brilliant
John Boyne's Heart's Invisible Furies was my favorite book I read last year (out of 50 mostly literary titles), and this book may be my favorite for this year. Maurice Swift, our protagonist, is the type of villain that readers can love to hate. Boyne cleverly reveals the story of Swift using different perspectives, and by doing so, he surprisingly is able to create quite a few well rounded supporting characters too. This book echoed others for me such as American Psychopath, Lolita, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, but in a more subtle way that was more engaging and fun to read as opposed to leaving the reader filled with disgust. The icing on the cake is this book is about ruthlessness in the literary world so it feels like an insider peek into the industry.

Cheryl M. (Le Claire, IA)

A Ladder to the Sky
This exceptional book looks at talent, greed and accomplishments in the writing world. It is eerily on target in this day of electronic and social media. It is applicable across all professions.

Through exceptional writing, character development, and story line, it considers decisions we all face every day. What makes a story, or ad or design, your own? Have you seen things in social media or at conferences that would make you and your company more successful? Have you woven ideas heard at a dinner gathering, conference, or neighborhood pool party into an award-winning product? Was there a mentor that opened doors for you?

Today I sit at my desk pondering a good ad idea that was developed by a competitor in a neighboring city. We're loosely held together through a national organization that provides basic layouts and copy to adapt to our local needs. We've also always taken the unofficial stance to use whatever another member has developed to help get across our message.

Should I get credit for the ad I develop based on their layout and even use of some copy disguised as coming from my city?

How far would you go? What is your ladder to the sky? Read this book today.

Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)

Thought-provoking, chilling suspense
This book was well-written with an unexpected ending. The story kept my interest and Maurice Swift's unwavering ambition to be a renowned writer prevails to the end. Maurice's efforts to reach his goals go from being fairly manipulative to disturbing and even frightening. This is one of the most intriguing books I've read this year. I highly recommend this book.

Amy W. (Annapolis, MD)

Must Read
Once again John Boyne has crafted a very engaging story. Told through various narrators Boyne tells the tale of Maurice Swift and his ruthless climb to success. For me, the mark of a good book is one that calls to me while I am reading it making it hard to put down and stays with me after I turn the last page. I could not stop thinking about this story once it was over, I highly recommend this book. I think it would make an excellent book club book.

Marion C. (Peabody, MA)

To The Top
The title "A Ladder to the Sky" caught my eye as someone's climb to the top of his/her career. The novel did not disappoint me. With great ambition, Maurice Swift, protagonist, labors to be the best writer. However, his problem is how he reaches the top early in his climb and then has a dry period. Ambition is not his problem, finding ideas are. John Boyne keeps his readers hooked with the clarity of his language and structure of his novel. Now that I have read Boyne's excellent writing, I am going to read "The Heart's Invisible Furies".

Susie J. (Fort Wayne,, IN)

One Swift Read!
Mr. Boyne is such a great storyteller that I was compelled to read this in one sitting! It is the story of a wannabe writer named Maurice Swift - who not only shares his last name with another famous Brit/Irish writer, Jonathan Swift, but Mr. Boyne has used one of that writer's most notorious writing techniques to fill the pages of his tale of Maurice - that being irony! This is a dark tale of the writing and publishing world; it is so engrossing that you will want to read it quickly if only to find out how much the main character manages to get away with. Once I finished, I could not help but wonder if some of it might possibly be true!

...24 more reader reviews

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Author Information

John Boyne Author Biography

Photo: Rich Gilligan

Boyne was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1971, and studied English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and creative writing at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. He now offers a scholarship to Irish students undertaking the MA program at UEA.

He has published 9 novels for adults and five for younger readers, including The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas which was a New York Times No.1 Bestseller and was made into a Miramax feature film. It has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide. He is also the author of the short story collection Beneath The Earth.

He is a regular book reviewer for The Irish Times and has been a judge for both the Hennessy Literary Awards and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, as well as chairing the ...

... Full Biography
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Link to John Boyne's Website

Name Pronunciation
John Boyne: BOYn

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