A Ladder to the Sky
by John Boyne
A psychological drama of cat and mouse, A Ladder to the Skyshows how easy it is to achieve the world if you are prepared to sacrifice your soul.
If you look hard enough, you can find stories pretty much anywhere. They don’t even have to be your own. Or so would-be writer Maurice Swift decides very early on in his career. A chance encounter in a Berlin hotel with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann gives him an opportunity to ingratiate himself with someone more powerful than him. For Erich is lonely, and he has a story to tell. Whether or not he should do so is another matter entirely.
Once Maurice has made his name, he sets off in pursuit of other people’s stories. He doesn’t care where he finds them – or to whom they belong – as long as they help him rise to the top. Stories will make him famous but they will also make him beg, borrow and steal. They may even make him do worse.
I was kindly given an e-ARC of the book by the publishers at NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I only recently read my first ever John Boyne book and my mind was blown away by the sheer brilliance of his writing and I remember thinking, ‘Can he impress me anymore than he already has?’ The answer came when I got the opportunity to request an ARC on NetGalley and I was approved for it. I was still on a high as far as John Boyne was concerned and perhaps because of that, I also started building expectations.
I put off reading the book then because building up expectations and then falling prey to that trap was not something I was interested in. So, after a while I picked it up again and started reading. And kinda didn’t really stop till I finished it. It’s not a terribly long book but it packs punches that leave a mark behind even after you have finished it.
I said in my other post that Maurice the main character gave off some serious Gilderoy Lockhart vibes, and I wasn’t lying. The book starts with Erich Ackermann and his encounter with Maurice in 1980s and spans decades till the current times. When Erich Ackermann meets Maurice, Ackermann is on a book tour and has been feeling a bit odd about the whole matter. His sixth book, ‘Dread’, turned out to be a bestseller, something Erich had never imagined it would be. Maurice somehow seamlessly makes himself present in Erich’s life, so much so that after an encounter in the hotel, Erich invites him on his book tour. The way Maurice works his way into Erich’s life is frankly admirable and a little scary and a little bit disgusting?
However, Maurice is also superb in making sure that Erich is happy. He’s an engaging audience to Erich’s tales and makes quite an impression on the older man. He has good looks, enough charisma to fill a ballroom and enough cunning to get ahead in his career based on other people’s lives. While his writing isn’t bad, his ideas leave much to be desired and Maurice accepts it with grace. He admits to not being able to form ideas or even find some solid ideas but he also shares that he wants to succeed whatever the means.
And succeed he does. By taking people’s stories and making them into his own, Maurice does manage to be successful, however not everyone is on board with the Maurice ship because while he is on his way to success, he writes a book that is, while not a direct retelling of Erich’s life during the War, eerily similar to Erich’s life. In the process of climbing the success mountain, he brings devastation to Erich’s life.
I think Maurice is an excellent character, Boyne wrote him so wonderfully!! There are moments when you are left wondering if this man is real, then there are moments when his lack of morals and humanity leaves you breathless. Despite how very despicable he is or perhaps because of it, Maurice certainly leaves a mark even when you are finished reading the book. Whether Maurice gets what he deserves or not, well, that’s better to find out by reading it yourself, isn’t it?
A really brilliant book that I would love to read again. For fans of John Boyne, this is a delightful read and those who haven’t yet read John Boyne, here’s your chance to change that! If you are a fan of literary fiction, absolutely interesting characters with more black than grey then this is the book for you. If you want to venture away from YA or your general genre and have an adventure, start with this one. It’s not too long, about 370 pages? And it would blow your mind. You might think that I am hyping it far too much but the thing is, I don’t think I am hyping it enough.
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne comes out in August and you can preorder your copy on all the major bookstores and shopping websites.
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