Summary and book 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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  • Published:
    Nov 2018, 0 pages

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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.

Excerpt
A Ladder to the Sky

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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The novel is a marvelous send-up of the contemporary publishing world and the literati. It feels like an insider peek into the industry. Boyne depicts it as a particularly nasty business; if you entertain the notion of becoming a published author, maybe you shouldn't read this novel…but then again, maybe you should.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

The Guardian (UK)
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 Sunday Independent
As a study in the self-rationalizing ‘ethics’ of a psychopath, this book is fascinating. As a story, it is horrifically plausible.

The TImes (UK)
A Ladder to the Sky is clever, chilling and beautifully paced; a study of inner corrosion that Patricia Highsmith herself could not have done better…wickedly astute

The Sunday Times (UK)
A riot of a read… An author at the top of his game who knows exactly what he wants to say.

Booklist
Well-crafted…The novel unfolds in an extremely layered manner, but what Swift’s story slowly reveals says much about publishing, pride, deceit, and plagiarism—and worse, much worse.

The Daily Mail (UK)
A dark morality tale in the mold of Patricia Highsmith . . . consistently intriguing.

Publishers Weekly
Boyne’s fast-paced, white-knuckle plot, accompanied by delightfully sardonic commentary on the ego, insecurities, and pitfalls of those involved in the literary world, makes for a truly engrossing experience.

Library Journal
Boyne expertly explores notions of originality and authorship through multiple first-person accounts of the despicable Swift. As a result, his latest novel is absorbing, horrifying, and recommended.

Kirkus Reviews
Boyne’s singular villain and well-sustained tension merit a good audience.

The Irish Independent
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.'

Reader Reviews

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...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

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, ...   Read More

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...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Famous Writers Who Have Plagiarized

The main character in John Boyne's novel A Ladder to the Sky plagiarizes others' work to gain his fame and fortune.

Plagiarism CartoonMany famous authors have been accused of "borrowing" the writings of others and claiming it as their own work, sometimes even landing them in court. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown, creator of the Robert Langdon series of page-turners, were both sued (unsuccessfully) and had to prove they did not appropriate someone else's stories to make their fortunes. Some acts of plagiarism, though, are not at all subtle and are without question the work of someone other than the acclaimed individual.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) became blind and deaf before the age of two due to an illness. Most know her ...

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