A Ladder to the Sky

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

didn’t realise just how good this book was going to be, this is my first John Boyd novel and to put it bluntly “it blew my tiny mind away”

When novelist Erich Ackerman writes his 6th novel, “Dread” and is finally recognised for his work, he a meets handsome young waiter called Maurice, aged 22 and a wannabe writer, who he takes on as his personal assistant. This is helped more by the fact that he finds him attractive and less by the quality of his CV!!

“I’ll do whatever it takes to succeed” Maurice had said and he certainly does. He is desperate to be a renowned published author and will go to any lengths to get the perfect story, even if it means he doesn’t actually write it.

Maurice is such a strong character, handsome, charming and manipulative. I couldn’t stop reading to find out what happens to Maurice and hoping that he gets his comeuppance.

This book has to be read, it will stay with me for a long time and I can not recommend it highly enough. My favourite book of 2018 so far!!

I have just become a fan of John Boyd so excuse me whilst I look for another of his books!!!
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It was the author's name that inspired me to read this book. I've read his last novel The Heart's Invisible Furies and liked it very much, so I was looking forward to reading this book. 
And the beginning was a bit disappointing for me, after the first part I thought, "oh no, another homosexual story, is that not enough?" I couldn't be more mistaken. Homosexuality plays its role in the book, but it is not the main point. The main point is the literature and stories and our ideas about and relationship to them. After all, you don't need to be a writer to be able to understand the morale behind Maurice's behaviour. Everybody knows the so called white lies.
It is one of the few books I've read in which I was not always sure of my relationship with the main character. It changed several times through the story and that is very interesting and a great achievement of the author. To be able to make the character so interesting and so changeable in reader's reactions to him is a sign of quality. At the same time you can't say that the character changes himself, he actually stays the same, a complex character you can't really see through. That is one of the strengths of the novel.
The other one ist the narative perspective. It ist changing throughout the novel, and that makes it even more interesting, because you see Maurice's actions from different perspectives and can understand why the people like or dislike him. The perspective of his wife, was the best for me (and the most surprising). Just because of this part it was worth to read the novel.
John Boyne showed again that he is the master of his job!
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I've been waiting over 1.5 yrs for this and it didn't disappoint. Possibly John Boynes best book so far. The character of Maurice Swift is genius, at times his actions made me have put the book down and prepare for what was coming next. The stories within the story were all enthralling reads. Spanning over different countries and times the writing gave a real feel for each place and setting. An absorbing read.
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John Boyne has surpassed himself with A Ladder To The Sky. His characters are dislikeable in the extreme but still so interesting and believable. The story follows firstly prize winning writer, Erich Ackerman, who falls for Maurice Swift, a handsome young waiter and ambitious would be writer and tells him a secret he has never before disclosed to anyone. 

I loved The Heart's Invisible Furies last year and A Ladder To The Sky continues the gripping characterisations and multiple points of view Mt Boyne excels in writing. The reader may be horrified at Maurice's betrayals of his mentors and his wife in particular but will read on to find out if he ever gets his comeuppance. Thank you for the LOLS in A Ladder To the Sky Mr Boyne. I will be recommending your book to everyone! Thanks to Net Galley and Random House/Transworld for the opportunity to read and review it.
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It is 1988 and prize-winning author and Cambridge lecturer Erich Ackermann has returned to his Berlin roots for a book event.  At the bar of the hotel he meets an ambitious young waiter.  Their story spans 30 years to the present day.  It is told by a number of different voices and has an enthralling mixture of the purely fictional and real life literary figures (one section is narrated by Gore Vidal whose writing Boyne has certainly re-whetted my appetite for).  Running through the narrative are the machinations of a fabulous baddie and I’m not even going to reveal who this is, only to say that John Boyne has created a compelling monster whose antics had me often open-mouthed in horror.

Like Boyne’s last novel “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” this is a beautifully balanced book, another complete package, which offers a tremendous variety for the reader with humour, tragedy, twists, crime and moral dilemmas all present to form a heady brew.  

With more literary fiction being spawned from real life and the stories of others this novel raises some thought-provoking points about the creative process and the ownership of ideas in a way which is thoroughly entertaining.  I still think “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” is his masterwork (of what I’ve read of his so far) but then it is probably my favourite read of this century but “A Ladder To The Sky” is also very, very good indeed.  Be prepared for a real treat of a read!
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Maurice Swift has a way with words, nobody denies that.  He believes he can tell a story better than anyone else, even if it’s not his story and not one that he has come up with himself.  He has an overwhelming ambition to be a great writer, so what is he to do?  Where will he find a story worthy of his writing talent?  We follow his quest, verging on the psychopathic, to seek out the very subject matter he needs for his novel, then the next, and the next.  John Boyne has created an outstanding character in Maurice - charming, good-looking, cold and manipulative - I was riveted to see what he would do next and whether he would get away with it.

As to John Boyne’s writing talent, I can find no fault, but I didn’t expect to since The Heart’s Invisible Furies made such an impression on me late last year.  I enjoyed the structure of this book, the action moving along swiftly in a succession of distinct parts narrated by different characters and voices, the final one by Maurice himself being the one I’d most hoped to find included.  Reading his defence of his actions struck me particularly.  A story I’ll remember and can’t recommend highly enough.
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STEALING THE LIMELIGHT.

All About Eve meets Macbeth in John Boyne’s story of grotesque ambition and sexual ambivalence. Maurice Swift has only ever cared about two things: becoming a successful novelist and fathering a child (but that’s another story). As far as his literary goal is concerned, there’s only one obstacle standing in his way and that’s his inability to think up plots. Never mind. He can always steal them. 

A further route to grease his way up the literary pole is to insinuate himself with the great writers of the day. During a joyously vitriolic interlude at Gore Vidal’s Ravello retreat, Vidal believes he can read this presumptuous visiting upstart like a book. But Maurice surprises him when he says he wants children.
“’What on earth do you want a child for? What good is a squealing infant to anyone? They demand instant attention. A puppy, I could understand. But a child? Really?’
Maurice shook his head and smiled. ‘You wouldn’t understand,’ he said. ‘You’ve obviously never wanted one.’
‘I don’t even like passing them in the street.’”

This is a book in five distinct parts, some more successful than others, but taken as a whole it is a meticulously crafted piece of work that compels the reader onward to its denouement. There is just one issue with it for me – but unfortunately, it’s a big one. I didn’t believe a single word. I couldn’t believe in Maurice Swift. I couldn’t believe in the things he did. And I certainly couldn’t believe he would go to such lengths to come up with book plots. Why, one only has to open the pages of any morning newspaper on any given day and one will be rewarded with fascinating human stories! Did Maurice never even think of looking at the obits?

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.
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Have read a lot of John Boyne books and I'm usually a fan but I just can't get into this one. I will try again in the near future.
Thanks to the author and Netgalley for the ARC.
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John Boyne’s ‘A Ladder to the Sky’ is a thrilling literary study of a sociopath. Maurice Swift is ambitious, manipulative, immoral and fascinatingly readable. Told over three decades, with each time period having its own distinct style and  perspective, Maurice climbs to fame, and falls to failure, drawing on the skills and stories of those around him. This is a book about ambition, about what the truth is, about literary back-biting and jealousies and the ability of a handsome youth to cause others to lose their judgement. I loved the Gore Vidal era, and the period from the perspective of the wife is both horribly predictable (in a good way) and shocking in turn.
I’ve never read a John Boyne book before, I’ll be seeking his back catalogue now.
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It is SUCH A JOY to read a John Boyne novel.  I love when I start it that I have no idea of the subject or style that he will write with.  A Ladder to the Sky is the story of Maurice Swift..... from wannabe novelist to successful novelist to alcoholism and the journey he took to get there. The ruthless journey he took and the big question “was it worth it?”

A insightful and delightfully evil and subtle way of telling us all that the dazzle of success and adoration is not all that it seems. That ambition has a price. 

For me this had vibes of Harry Quebert ( Joel Dicker) from the insight into a frustrated writer perspective, and also hints of Tom Ripley in terms of the ruthlessness at all costs. 

Really compelling.  Particularly for me the section of the book with Maurice and Edith.  

This book keeps me very much a fully paid up member of the John Boyne fan club
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"… 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. A pointless waste of energy.''

There are three narrators to this ingenious study of sexual obsession and psychological exploitation, one of whom is the manipulative central character. Although I know of one best-selling author who was accused of a similar crime to that of Boyne’s protagonist, this fictional sociopath of the literary world takes ambition to extremes and can compete with the likes of  Highsmith's Tom Ripley in his lack of conscience and remorse. I loved Boyne’s witty insights into writers lives (a famous novelist features in one episode) and the act of writing itself. He certainly has no trouble coming up with a good plot or in telling an interesting story.
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A Ladder to the Sky is the story of Maurice Swift...a handsome, intelligent and charming twenty four year old.  Whether he is a sociopath or psychopath I can't quite make up my mind, however he is definitely an individual who is devoid of empathy, who is happy to use others for his own gain and who is entirely self-serving.  We first meet Maurice in 1989, a would be writer, while he is working as a waiter in the Savoy Hotel in Berlin when he makes the acquaintance of aging writer, Erich Ackermann.  Chewed up and cast aside by Maurice for his own benefit and ambition, Maurice quickly moves on to the next unsuspecting "victim", as Maurice fulfills his dream of becoming the most respected, well known and celebrated writer of his generation.  However, unfortunately Maurice lacks the talent to completely achieve this status on his own. 

Spanning 30+ years, the book is told in several narratives, all of which give you a fascinating insight into the central character of Maurice, whose character is very well and cleverly drawn out, as are the characters of those narrating the earlier chapters.  You feel like you know Maurice, his character makes you totally uneasy and yet you are utterly compelled to keep reading about him.  John Boyne has very cleverly created a character of whom we are totally judgmental and love to hate but also makes you feel that you understand him a little more by the end.  I loved the ending, in fact I loved everything about this book.  I am a huge John Boyne fan and what can I say, John Boyne has done it again and created another tour de force with characters and a storyline that will stay with you for a long time.

Many thanks to NetGalley, John Boyne and the publisher for the opportunity to read A Ladder to the Sky in exchange for an honest review.
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