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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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  • First Published:
    Nov 2018, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2019, 400 pages

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There are currently 42 reader reviews for A Ladder to the Sky
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

An Astonishing, Addictive Novel with an Ending That Left Me Gobsmacked!
Gobsmacked. That's how I felt when I got to the end of this astonishing and rather addictive book by John Boyne.

But let's go back to the beginning.

This is not a "thriller" in the typical sense, but Boyne carefully—oh, so very carefully—builds the story from not much of anything into something that is truly powerful, enticingly dark, and just so enthralling that I couldn't stop reading it. This not-thriller is really very suspenseful. (Honestly, it is because of books like this that my favorite quote is: "Life is just a series of obstacles preventing you from reading your book.")

This is the story of Maurice Swift, a very handsome, very charming young man who has always dreamed of being a writer. Better yet, a famous and rich writer. But Maurice has a big stumbling block: He has no imagination. He writes well…even very well. But he can't conceive of a plot or a storyline. So he does the only thing he can think to do: He steals other people's ideas. And sometimes he steals more than that. Maurice publishes his first book to great acclaim, but then gets stymied. The story of his second successful novel gave me the shivers and nearly made me cry. But his treachery gets more sordid and so dark it's almost inconceivable. An absolutely morally corrupt human being is winning and winning and winning…and getting away with it. And then there is that ending.

Oh, and John Boyne's writing. It's superb. Each "chapter" is really a novella or a short story, depending on the length. Each is totally different than the others with the connecting link being Maurice Swift.

This isn't a horror story. There are no axe murderers stalking victims at midnight. But this richly imagined story is frightening, spine-chilling, and sinister. And the ending left me gobsmacked.
Kathleene M.

How far would you go?
This was an intriguing novel. Handsome people seem to know how to utilize their looks and take immeasurable means to get ahead, no matter what the cost. This novel kept me in suspense and in the end, the main character, despite being held accountable, preyed once again on another’s creative work.
Nanette S. (San Pierre, IN)

A Ladder to the Sky
WOW, what a story. Maurice Swift has one single ambition, to become an award winning writer. He has such extreme ambition that nothing and no one will stand in his way, not even death. He uses every method imaginable to be that writer and leave a legacy in his field. We hear from three different characters on how Maurice strives to climb up the "ladder" to get there. Maurice is an unlikeable character, one that becomes more and more appalling as he climbs that "ladder", yet one needs to continue reading to see if he can somehow redeem himself.
Mr Boyne does a masterful job of drawing the reader into the despicable life of Maurice Swift, keeping the reader in suspense and seeing if Maurice will eventually get his comeuppance. It is definitely worth picking up this novel.
Lynne Z. (San Francisco, CA)

Whatever It Takes
John Boyne is an incredible author. He tugged at my heartstrings with Cyril in The Hearts Invisible Furies, and turned me completely around with Maurice in A Ladder to the Sky. Boyne created a character that defies description. Dislikable, vile, ruthless and amoral, Maurice stops at nothing to achieve his two dreams - becoming a literary celebrity and having a child. In his path of destruction, he steals, plagiarizes, manipulates and murders. The only person he is unable to lure into his sordid and twisted web is Gore Vidal. This was a haunting book that I can't stop thinking about.
Celia P. (Melbourne, FL)

There is NOTHING
A Ladder to the Sky is filled with distasteful characters. Two especially stand out: Maurice Swift, who keeps saying he has no imagination, steals ideas from others so that his books become best sellers/award winners. There are at least three ways he has done this in his life. He uses people in all kinds of ingenious ways.
His sister-in-law has her own agenda too. She wants to divorce her husband and have sole and unfettered custody of their two children. Wait til you see what SHE concocts.

The book itself reads almost like short stories. Yes, there is continuity amongst them, but huge chunks of time are skipped. I found this a good vehicle and way to write. I appreciated that Boyne wanted to skip the small stuff and let us know what was and had happened.

I was totally and emotionally engaged throughout the whole book. I have not read a book this good in quite some time.

One idea that I will attempt to paraphrase is especially noteworthy. "An author can have a beautiful way with words and phrasing, but it the plot is boring, the book will go nowhere".

This book, not boring at all, is definitely going somewhere.
Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

Achingly funny - or laughably horrifying
My inclination is to urge the reader to ignore reviews that summarize or comment on the plot of this remarkable novel. It is enough to know that John Boyne created it so you are in the hands of a master story teller. Sit back and enjoy the ride, even if you are at times infuriated at our protagonist and may even want to throw the book across the room. The payoff is there and getting there is 90 percent of the fun.
Deborah M. (Chambersburg, PA)

Boyne Makes a Left Turn onto Sinister Road
I have to hand it to John Boyne for moving out of his comfort zone (fairly straightforward historical fiction) and trying something different in this book and his last, The Heart's Invisible Furies. In both, he moves into more contemporary times to give us not only in-depth character studies but also a critical view of society and its changing values. His hero (anti-hero) here is Maurice Swift, a crafty, completely amoral writer bent on doing whatever it takes to reach the top of the heap: "The Prize," presumably the Man Booker Prize. He steals shamelessly from other writers, relying on Anatole France's remark, "When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it." (It's a philosophy shared by many other writers, from Horace to Ben Jonson and beyond.) He uses and abuses just about everyone he encounters that might be useful in his quest. Yes, he's vile, but Boyne's wonderful writing keeps the reader fascinated as the plot unfolds. A marvelous send-up of the contemporary publishing world and the literati.
Power Reviewer
Diane S. (Batavia, IL)

A ladder to the sky
Boynes, Hearts Invisible Furies turned out to be my favorite book of last year. In that one he gave me a character I absolutely loved, in this one he does the opposite. Here, he gives us a character, one loves to hate, a young man devoid of any redeeming characteristics. Maurice Swift, a man who thinks that anything he does is justified. Nothing is his fault.

Now I am the type of reader who enjoys being given a character who tugs at my heart, someone in which I can hope for cherish. But....I also say if you can't give me that, then give me some stellar prose, or a plot that is intriguing, pulls me into the story. And.....yes that is definitely the case here, this plot pulled me in, like watching a train wreck I couldn't pull away. Can beauty alone, present a blind that allows one to excuse another's actions? Do those who are extremely good looking have an unfair advantage, treated differently than those who do not? Apparently so. This is a book where it would be so easy to give away part of the plot, so I will stop here. The less said the better I this case.

Boyne, to me is an amazing writer. He writes so many different types of books, but though I have not yet read all of his, the ones I have, did not let me down. I look forward to seeing where he takes me next.

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