A ladder to the sky : a novel

by John Boyne

Hardcover, 2018

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

London ; New York : Hogarth, [2018]

Description

Aspiring writer Maurice Swift, whose desire for fame exceeds his talent, uses a chance meeting with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann in a West Berlin hotel in 1988 to obtain secrets about Ackermann's wartime activities, which becomes material for his 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.

Media reviews

John Boyne's new novel, set in the literary world, features a psychopath so intriguing he'll keep you fascinated and appalled to the very end. This is a hugely enjoyable novel about ambition, fraud, murder and the writing game from an author who, ever since global success of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in 2006, has been fizzing with ideas, is a dab hand at telling a story and creates vividly arresting characters, too.
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As Picasso is once supposed to have said: good artists copy; great artists steal. It’s a motto by which Maurice Swift, the sociopathic and mesmeric antihero of John Boyne’s latest novel might well live his life.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pdebolt
The protagonist of this amazing novel is Maurice Swift, whose literary ambitions far exceed his writing talents. He has two goals in life: to be a world-famous writer and to be a father. The first is accomplished through using his good looks and guile to attach himself to those who have gained renown as authors; the second is met through a surrogate with a horrific conclusion. Maurice is totally without a conscience and capable of using anyone to further his own interests, the very definition of a psychopath. He disposes of them when they no longer serve his needs, leaving heartbreak and death in his wake.

This novel is another example of John Boyne's incredible talent in developing a fascinating plot with fully-developed characters. His books are immensely readable, difficult to put down and always memorable.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
With A Ladder to the Sky, John Boyne is now one of my favorite authors and now has a place on my auto-buy list. His talent and creativity blow me away. Each of his novels that I have read is distinctively different, and he is just as comfortable and successful narrating from a little boy's perspective from the 1940s as he is from a woman's in the present day. All of his characters are alive in a way that makes them more real than your neighbor, and his stories are always compelling regardless of complexity.

The main character in A Ladder to the Sky is completely unlike any of his previous characters by the mere fact that he is more the villain than the hero. You find yourself loathing Maurice Swift even though he has a tendency to raise good questions about intellectual property and ownership. Yet, for all your dislike of Maurice, the story is compulsively readable. You want to find out how he could possibly become an even more deplorable human than he has already revealed himself to be all while anticipating the moment when his peers realize the truth. It is a novel which makes you question the answer to the age-old question of how authors come by the ideas for their stories just as it makes you wonder about the veracity of the picture of the publishing world Mr. Boyne, through Maurice, presents. I loved every minute of it.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
Up until the very, very end this was a 4-star novel. I knocked it down ½ a star because I don’t believe that anyone in the publishing industry would take a manuscript from Maurice Swift on faith now he was in prison; his many crimes exposed. Having him still so self-unaware that he thinks he could pass one off again is the right choice; Mauice will never change, but why the sudden condemnation of the publishing industry? That’s the only sense I could make of it. Either they are still dupes who learn nothing from past mistakes, or they are unethical jerks who will publish anything regardless of authenticity so long as it makes them money. And since there isn’t a hint of that anywhere else in the book, it was a really odd thing to include.

But let me back up. Overall I enjoyed this book even though I wasn’t prepared to. I hesitated a lot over even starting it because it features a sociopath, and it’s a good depiction of one. Maurice is classic. First, he’s lazy. Second, he doesn't see other people as people, but only as objects to be used and manipulated for his own ends. Third, he honestly doesn’t see a thing wrong with anything he’s done.Even killing his wife and son directly, and contributing to the deaths of others who have only been his blind victims. No, Maurice isn’t someone I’d like to know, but Boyne made the story interesting and enjoyable despite that.

Using an emotionless psychopath as the hub to anchor highly emotional stories is a pretty good choice. Otherwise it would be tough to connect the secret homosexual longings of a German man in the late 1930s to a woman of color writer and teacher in the 1990s. Plus using Maurice as the tool he made of the people around him is pretty neat even if it wasn’t deliberate. Although the individual outlooks and internal struggles of Erick and Edith are very different, their destructions were equally gut-wrenching.

From my comfortable spectator’s seat it is hard for me not to judge them too harshly. They both had evidence of what Maurice really was right in front of them; especially Edith. She lives with his cruelty, idleness and selfishness and suffers at his intense mood swings and temper. No way would I put up with that, but she does. Had she taken the least precaution with her work, she might have prevented his theft. Of course she doesn’t see sending drafts to her editor as a precaution; what does she have to protect against anyway? She doesn’t see her husband as a threat and so not even an outline or a synopsis crosses her editor’s desk. So after Maurice pushes her down the stairs (nice foreshadowing with the busted railing, btw) it’s easy to subsume her work. The thing I didn’t like is that she was telling this tale in the first person from a coma she never wakes from. How would she have told it after Maurice pulled the plug? No, that didn’t work for me.

The interlude with Gore Vidal was fun and interesting. Maurice didn’t impress and Vidal wasn’t taken in, but it wasn’t a victory for either. More of a draw. Vidal didn’t lose any face, standing or suffer from his meeting Maurice, and Maurice didn’t add another victim to his growing list. Neither did he get all that bothered by his failure to make Vidal a conquest or by Vidal’s obvious contempt. If he couldn’t take the little asshole down a peg no one could and it sets Maurice’s character more firmly.

Finally we have what is obviously a set up from the beginning. Enter Theo Field, a 20-year-old student doing a thesis on Maurice. His introductory letter is the perfect hook - at once full of fan-boy flattery and plans to turn his paper into a book, Theo also mentions his father’s job at Random House and his own non-threatening choice of biographer rather than novelist. Of course the now degraded and solitary Maurice will meet with him. I quivered at the prospect of his comeuppance and I got it. Kinda (see first paragraph).

Theo’s skillful manipulation is a thing of beauty with Maurice as its victim. From his eager-to-please fawning to his adoption of Maurice’s dead son Daniel’s looks, habits and dress, Theo plays Maurice perfectly. Over time Maurice can’t believe that he’s being so disrespectful, but can’t dislodge himself from the hook - a biography of his genius is the least he is due.

It’s during this period that Maurice’s advanced alcoholism brings his downfall. Not only does he start to mistake Theo for Daniel, he starts to reveal his crimes, some knowingly and brazenly (such as using Erick’s confidences and bringing about his disgrace and death), and others almost by accident (Edith, his first murder and Daniel, his second). When he realizes what he’s done it’s too late and Theo has all the evidence he needs.

Evidence? What kind of thesis is this? What kind of book? The vengeful sort. He reveals his true identity and aim; Erick’s grand-nephew and the downfall of Maurice Swift. His own fame and fortune is another one and it’s neat that he will make it by the tragedy of another, even if it’s richly deserved.

As I said, there is some comeuppance, but it isn’t convincing. It’s enough that Maurice is in jail. Not that he minds, but teaching creative writing? Even in prison it’s a stretch. And the new book is just silly. Change that one thing and this would be a great book.… (more)
LibraryThing member EadieB
"Everyone has secrets. There is something in all our pasts that we wouldn't want to be revealed and that's where you'll find your story."

Maurice Swift now has my vote for one of the most ruthless men in literature. He will stop at nothing in order to get ahead. John Boyne, A Ladder to the Sky, shows us a character bound and determined to get a published novel even though he doesn't have any original plot ideas. He does, however, manages to put together a story that makes him climb to the top of the charts. But how he does that is most questionably a matter of ethics that will have you turning the pages quickly. This is my second John Boyne book but will not be my last. His writing flows very easy and makes for a quick and fascinating read. If you haven't read any of Boyne's novels, A Ladder to the Sky, is a great place to start. I'm sure you will not be disappointed and will find yourself a new author to follow.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Hogarth Publishing for suppling me with a copy of this book for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member Narshkite
Well that was freaking fantastic. For some time a friend of mine has been encouraging to me to read John Boyne. "He is bitchier than you, and even darker." Well despite that excellent recommendation, I just never seemed to get to it. I am an idiot, and my friend was 100% right. I am in love with this man's work. In. Love.

This is a twisty and twisted novel. As many have mentioned it rifs on The Talented Mr. Ripley, but perhaps even more so on All About Eve. I won't rehash the plot but I will say that I loved the focus on how writers get stories, and the sometimes troubling circumstances. All writers steal other people"s stories. Most writers have some empathy, and so they make those stories their own rather than simply commiting the story to paper with better grammar and style, but isn't recognizing, spiffing up, and making use of others' stories a true skill -- maybe even an art? If we accept that writers appropriate stories, then how much of a leap is it to stealing others' work? And then what must be done to keep one's literary bona fides intact. And then what must be done to cover one's trail. Maurice has his hands full with all these actions and questions, and what he has done and still.must do to keep the charade going. Turns out psychopaths can be wildly entertaining as they go about their business.

Boyne tells this story from so many perspectives and he never falters. Its not just different voices but entirely different writing styles. and all are pretty perfect. In a best among equals race though, the section where Maurice meets Gore Vidal is one of the best and funniest things I have ever read.

I will be reading more John Boyne, lots more.
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LibraryThing member kimkimkim
John Boyne has created the most perfect “Despicable Me” character in Maurice Swift. He is a boy who arrives in other people lives, preys upon their weaknesses, sucks out their story, recreates it as his own, reaps the laurels, ultimately destroys the host and moves on to the next always justifying his rightness, never admitting his treachery. Well, that may not be totally accurate as early in the story Swift states that being a success is all that matters and he would do whatever it takes to succeed. Who would have thought that it would be that and that and that.

The story is told by varying characters and what makes the writing so extraordinary is that it fits the author’s definition of what a writer does: “ ‘Uses his or her imagination. Tries to understand how it feels to be alive in a moment that never existed with a person who never lived, saying words that were never spoken aloud’ “

But where to find a title that fits - sometimes it is drawn from a proverb and only at the end does it all make perfect sense. The title, the characters, the writing, simply superb.

Thank you NetGalley and Crown Publishing for a copy of this most amazing book.
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LibraryThing member msf59
“The more you read, the more you write, the more the ideas will appear. They’ll fall like confetti around your head and your only difficulty will be deciding which ones to catch and which to let fall to the floor.”

“You’ve heard the wonderful news, I presume?” “No. Has Mr. Trump died?”

Maurice Swift is young, handsome and utterly charming. He also possesses an unbridled ambition to become a famous writer. The key component he lacks, is talent. Using, his other beguiling attributes, he will find a way and does. This is the rise and inevitable fall of Maurice, as he moves through the years, climbing toward success leaving heartache and devastation in his wake.
I loved Boyne's previous novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies and he has done it again here. The writing is strong and assured, an author at the top of his game, delivering a literary All About Eve, with a much nastier and ruthless streak. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member KateVane
After loving The Heart’s Invisible Furies, I was looking forward to reading John Boyne’s latest novel.

A Ladder to the Sky is the story of an attractive young man, Maurice, who wants to be a writer. He uses his looks and charm to attach himself to a series of successful authors across the world. He builds his own career as a novelist by stealing stories from them, while leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

Boyne is having fun with the well-worn question, ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ and wondering what would happen to an author who could write good prose but couldn’t invent a story of his own. I’m not sure I accept the premise – I’ve read plenty of literary novels where the prose is gorgeous but the story weak and unrealised and that doesn’t seem to stop them winning awards. But it’s a fun idea and a playful treatment.

I loved the black comedy and Maurice’s trajectory through literary circles. It’s a world that’s familiar to me from the days when I was on the fringes of traditional publishing, albeit at a lower level. I think the constant hustling, the fine line between adoration and envy, the comparisonitis are due to the fact that the conventional markers of success – salary, job title, professional qualifications – are absent so your status is always shifting. The intriguing question is why Maurice, with his good looks and easy opportunism, doesn’t inveigle himself into a more glamorous and lucrative business.

Perhaps the same things that make people want to write and be among writers – the love of the craft, the desire to belong to a world of books and ideas – apply to him too. It suggests that his passion for literature is genuine, even if the rest of him is a lie.

A few real writers make an appearance in the novel which is fun and adds to the writerly in-jokiness of the thing. There is an interlude written from the point of view of Gore Vidal which is quite entertaining if you’re a fan, and works by Maude Avery, the fictional novelist from The Heart’s Invisible Furies, are namechecked.

The irony, of course, is that Maurice is constantly inventing in life, with his trail of deceit and manipulation. But it seems Maurice can’t get to the end, and that’s true of this novel as well.

In the later part of the book we learn about key events from Maurice’s point of view. This only works if he has something to add, a radically different perspective, an intriguing justification. He doesn’t. Boyne also has an annoying tic of writing dialogue scenes as if they were verbatim, which means he often repeats at length stories the reader has already read. Why he can’t just write ‘I told him about the death of my mother’ and move on, I don’t know.

Maurice was most interesting when seen through the eyes of others, when he had the dark allure of a cool, calculating psychopath. When you start learning what he thinks himself, it’s quite banal. Perhaps that’s the intention, he is, after all, a man who can’t make up a story, but that and a slightly laboured twist meant that, for me, the end of the book didn’t live up to the rest.
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I received a copy of A Ladder to the Sky from the publisher via Netgalley.
This review first appeared on my blog katevane.com/blog
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LibraryThing member ErickaS
Maurice Swift is the most loathsome protagonist, and I was smitten with his vileness.

John Boyne has created another masterpiece with A Ladder to the Sky. Maurice, self-centered beyond redemption, is an aspiring writer. The barrier to his success is that he lacks the talent of original thought. Blessed with movie star good looks, Maurice charms older, esteemed writers into becoming his mentors, using them for what he can, then dumping them, often with devastating consequences. As the novel progresses, Maurice’s ambition grows into a monster that he must keep feeding.

John Boyne is a rare author who has created such a despicable main character who also captures the reader’s enthusiasm. Maurice’s shamelessness is juxtaposed with his victims’ inexplicable adoration which creates tension that never waivers. The ending is a resounding smash.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Penguin First to Read for this advance copy in exchange for my review.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Rooting for the scoundrel is difficult, but knowing that novels rarely allow karma to be done away with completely, kept me reading. The nefarious Swift is a wonderfully deplorable man who we find ourselves loving to hate. The way he just rather saunters from loathsome deed to outrageous rationalization is despicable. Consider this book to be a warning about the criminally conceited and how power corrupts. Also, one that reminds us that we each have our own secrets.

Evil personified can be very captivating - almost like visiting with the rich and famous - which we also do in this novel when Gore Vidal steps in for a few pages. Vidal calls our spade a spade in his own inimitable way. I purchased this book at full price, but do not consider this fact to be essential to my own semi-unbiased assessment. Overall - loved it.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
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 ehere he takes me next.

ARC from bookbrowse.
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LibraryThing member Michael_Godfrey
A twenty-four hour read, rare for me these days, that had me breathless, even held me awake and reading during the night. Boyne's creative mastery as he depicts the slow unravelling of a loathsome psychopath (294, and yes, protagonist Maurice Swift would have noted the tautology) is exquisite - all that the protagonist's art could never be. The artistic, sociological and legal conundrums that Maurice Swift throws our way are deeply unsettling. There is some redemption of victims, some schadenfreude, but, because: life, they remain incomplete. A true psychopath, Swift learns nothing from the exposure of his evil. We are left with grating teeth and a desire to deliver a fatal dose of vicarious vengeance long after the final sentences die away. Humour (Boyne's reference to Donald Trump at 314 is most satisfying), irony (Swift's characterisation of writers at 304 is brutally self-revealing and gives rise to the declaration of the title on 305), an unusually successful excursion into first person death-narrative, respectful glimpses into imagined lives of historical figures (Gore Vidal and Howard Austen), and unrelenting narrative energy combine to make Ladder to the Sky perfect therapy in a world in which the leadership uncannily, disturbingly resembles the heinous anti-hero of Boyne's unsettling tale.… (more)
LibraryThing member janismack
Another interesting story by John Boyne. A callus and ambitious writer will do anything to be a success. He’s not a bad writer but he has no good stories to write about, that is his problem. He’s so delusional, he has no qualms about stealing other writers ideas. Maurice Swift does get his due but not in the way you would think.… (more)
LibraryThing member breic
A writer can't write, so instead he steals other writers' stories. Doing whatever horrible things are necessary, escalating as the novel progresses. Amusingly—aptly—this novel's story itself is stolen from, or at least heavily inspired by "The Talented Mr Ripley." That gives this two levels of "meta" (1. the writer character writes his own memoir of stealing "Other People's Stories," 2. Boyne stealing from Patricia Highsmith). That's funny, but still it means that this novel is largely predictable and not ever shocking. Ripley is a more powerful tale.

The writing is fine, the characters believable. Maurice Swift is believably horrible, but the changing viewpoints mean that we aren't drowned in Swift's sociopathy. It is not tedious. I read nearly all in one sitting, which is rare for me.
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LibraryThing member miss.mesmerized
When Erich Ackermann first meets the young man in a café he is flattered by the admiration of a man so many years younger. As it turns out, Maurice is also a writer like him and Erich believes to discover the aspiring young man he once was in his new acquaintance and he immediately falls for him. Erich takes him on his tour around Europe to promote his book and the more time they spend together, the more the elderly scholar opens up and reveals secrets of his past to his young companion. He will regret this blind trust just as others will, too. Maurice, the charming handsome writer is quick in beguiling and clever at deceiving those who seem closest to him.

John Boyne’s latest novel is an astonishing piece of art. I wouldn’t stop reading after only a couple of pages. As in other novels before, he is brilliant at creating interesting and outstanding characters who act in a perfectly natural and authentic way. But also the set-up of “A Ladder to The Sky” superb: first, he gives the characters a voice who have fallen for Maurice; we only get the view of the outside and just as the narrators, we as the readers, too, are deceived by Maurice and feel anger and fury because of his shameless behaviour. It is only in the last part that Maurice himself gets to tell his view.

I assume the title is an allusion to the famous “Ladder of fortune”, at least it strongly reminded me of it. Yet, Maurice shows that it doesn’t need honesty and morality to succeed, riches and reputation also come if you are clever at deceiving and manipulating others and if you are cold-blooded enough to betray you own wife.

Apart from the outstanding characters and the noteworthy structure, I also highly appreciate Boyne’s style of writing. It’s sublime and moving and you get the impression that he really cares for his characters – maybe not that much for the evil Maurice. The plot twists and turns and even though you often already have a bad feeling of what might come, you don’t want to believe that this could actually happen. It hurts at times, but this makes it just more authentic.
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LibraryThing member Berly
Maurice wants to be a writer, and although he puts words together well, he falls short on inspiration. So he gets to know people, uses them for ideas, feeds his ambition. He is a handsome man. How much can he get away with? For the reader, the moral questions arise. All ideas are inspired by something or someone, but when does it become theft? And what about telling someone else's story, especially if it is told to you in confidence? So you change a few names. Is it enough? What if it has negative repercussions for them? Where is the line?

The main character, Maurice Swift, is a narcissist. A psychopath. No two ways about it. I hate him. But I have to know, how far will he go? I loved how multiple narrators tell his story: we learn of Maurice and the publishing world through their viewpoints, their hopes, their desires. His pawns will be remembered long after their tales have ended and Maurice has moved on. This is definitely a tale of dark morals. Thought-provoking, well-told, very memorable and a surprising page-turner.
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LibraryThing member Susan.Macura
I have read a number of this author's books - primarily his young adult books that were wonderful. However, I had never read any of his books for adults until this one. In this tale we meet a man who will do whatever it takes to achieve his life's dream - being a successful writer. It is amazing what he was willing to do to achieve success, even after everyone discovered the truth about him. Boyne has created a character with absolutely no redeeming qualities. This was an excellent book.… (more)
LibraryThing member nancyadair
John Boyne's novel The Heart's Invisible Furies was one of my favorite books of 2017. If the protagonist of Furies was sympathetic, the main character in Boyne's new book A Ladder to the Sky offers readers an entirely different type of character. For Maurice Swift uses everyone to advance his obsession to become a lionized writer of prize-winning books. On his way to the top, he breaks hearts and ruins and even ends lives. We despise him while finding him fascinating

The story has a noir quality as Swift's crimes become darker. I was reminded of The Talented Mr. Ripely by Patrician Highsmith. One feels almost guilty about how enjoyable it is to read about very bad people.

The people Swift has used as rungs up the ladder tell their stories, until the end when we finally hear from a declining Swift. It is a compelling story.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
I have always had a particular fondness for meta-fiction, and love reading books about writing books. This is a particularly delicious example of the genre.

The book opens with celebrated author Erich Ackerman returning to West Berlin in 1988 to promote his latest novel, Dread, which had recently won a prestigious literary award (known simply as ‘The Prize’, although presumably modelled on the Booker). Erich had been born in Germany in the 1920s, and had been a reluctant member of the Hitler Youth, and then fought in the German army during the Second World War. After the war, he had relocated to England where he had studied literature at Cambridge before going on to teach English at a local school. Meanwhile he had continued his studies, and upon securing his doctorate he also landed an academic post at his old college, subsequently becoming a professor of modern literature. Dread had been his sixth novel, and first critical and commercial success, and he was starting to enjoy the trappings that relative celebrity had brought.

While dining in his Berlin hotel after a reading from his novel, his eye falls upon an especially attractive young waiter. When the waiter’s shift is over, Erich manages to talk to him and over a drink in a nearby bar he learns that the waiter is English, and called Maurice Swift. It emerges that Swift has fled from a stultifying family life at home and is pursuing a gap year experience, just without the university course to follow. He also professes to an urge to write. Utterly enchanted by Swift’s charms, Erich takes him on as a personal assistant and amanuensis during the rest of his promotional tour around a selection of major European cities. As their tour proceeds, Erich gradually shares with Swift some of his early experiences from his youth in Nazi Germany, and in particular the details of his great unrequited adolescent love.

What Ackerman fails to notice is Swift’s burning ambition to achieve fame, at any price. Ackerman continues to recount some of his dreadful experiences from his youth, and Swift laps them up. What Ackerman fails to recognise is that Swift is storing these stories up, and writing his own novel, essentially plagiarising Ackerman’s own story, and merely tweaking a few of the details. When Swift finally publishes his story, he is himself feted as a potential winner of The Prize, while Ackerman is subjected to acrimony and disdain when some of the episodes of his youth are revealed. This scenario is merely the opening episode of a story of literary rivalry, plagiarism and unfettered ambition.

Boyne writes beautifully, and his characters are immensely credible. Swift is a fascinating character (and his treatment of Ackerman is merely an appetiser for a career of Machiavellian exploitation of those who try to help him or show him any support) who shows no shame for his growing catalogue of literary misdemeanours.

Boyne also gives us a lovely vignette involving a visit by an American author, another writer who finds himself enchanted by (and consequently in thrall to) Maurice Swift, to Gore Vidal’s Italian home. Vidal is at his malicious best, but is perhaps the only person who sees Swift for what he is.

Swift goes on to marry a successful female novelist, but finds himself struggling with writer’s block, exacerbated by the plaudits offered to his wife. Still, he hasn’t given up his dreams of consolidating, and extending, his own career as a writer, and he is prepared to do almost anything that is necessary.

A delicious melange of biting humour, desperate ambition and ultimate literary opportunism.
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LibraryThing member PinkPurlandProse
Many thanks to Netgalley, Crown Publishing and John Boyne for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advanced copy.

Get ready to dive into a tale of deceit and subterfuge as you discover what make Maurice Swift tick. All Maurice wants to be is a writer. A writer and a father. But not just any writer, a famous bestselling, award winning author. He is an excellent writer, the only problem is that he doesn’t have any original ideas - not even one. Maurice’s ambition is not going to let a little thing like that stop him. Why should it? By using people, stealing their stories and leaving a trail of crushed spirits (and bodies) behind him, he manages to publish successful novels. How far will he go? Will he commit the ultimate sin to get his story?

This character reminds me a bit of “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. As I learned more about Maurice, I realized this wasn’t so much an arc of this character’s descent into evil, rather, he is so cold, calculated, and unfeeling, with psychopathic tendencies, that I realized he doesn’t have a moral centre at all. His wife, Edith, wonders if he ever loved her. She couldn’t believe that even in the beginning it wasn’t a real love. The relationship with his son really illustrates how he is incapable of emotion. Claiming he always wanted a son as much as he wanted to become a writer, he finds a surrogate and along comes Daniel. Daniel is a perfect child, but reality does not live up to what Maurice thinks and he says that “he always had expected to feel unadulterated love for a child…but things hadn’t quite worked out that way”. No parental feelings of love developed, even his own child can’t stir his heart. Psychopaths can only copy the outward actions of people, because they don’t have the emotions to guide them. Watching Maurice’s story unfold and following his rise and fall is thrilling and beautiful.

Boyle has a unique voice. I love the way this was written. Suspenseful, but not in a whodunit kind of way. It flows beautifully and I was so excited to keep reading. The characters are rich, well drawn and you can’t help but feel for Maurice’s victims, even those who should have known better. My heart broke for Erich, Dash, Edith, but mostly for Daniel. Gore Vidal was delicious. Yes, Maurice doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, but I was still drawn in by him. His ability to pick his targets and like a spider, spin a web that they are powerless to escape from. The ending was completely satisfying, everything I could hope for. This was just a great read and I enjoyed every bit of it.
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
This novel should be titled The Plagiarist as this is what it is about. The primary character, Maurice Swift, spends his whole life building his literary career by stealing ideas and stories from other authors he has known over the years. To keep his reputation he is not above murder if needed. The book has an interesting premise and the author is a skillful writer but the book is pretty predictable once you see what is going on. That said, I enjoyed the novel and think it is worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
This is my first John Boyne book but it won't be my last. This story started slowly but ended up being an engrossing well written story. The main character is Maurice Swift and we are introduced to him in West Berlin in 1988. He is English and is an aspiring author. The problem is that he doesn't have any plot ideas so he has to steal other people's plots etc. Boyne does a fascinating job of telling the story that covers almost 30 years through the thoughts of 3 narrators. Maurice is a classic villain and though you may hate him there were times that I actually bought some of his rationale for his actions. The book also does a good job of looking at the whole publishing author prize winning industry. If you enjoy a good villain, then you will love this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sbojo32
Ladder to the Sky is the second John Boyne book I've read (The Heart's Invisible Furies was one of my favorite reads for 2018). Boyne's writing is amazing, although I did not enjoy this story as much as The Heart's Invisible Furies. What's interesting is that Boyne chose to write this book detailing a character who is, in a word, despicable.

Maurice is introduced early in the book, although at that point, it is not clear that Maurice is the main character. Rather, the book goes through all of the people that influenced Maurice's career. The reader gets insight into his head and how he justifies all of his actions.

It's hard to like a book with such an awful main character, but I did like this one. Boyne is an amazing writer and I devoured this book. It did start a bit slow, but once I got to the second part, I couldn't put it down. I would highly recommend this to others, especially those who liked any of Boyne's other works.
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LibraryThing member tuf25995
Oh John Boyne, you genius. Another brilliant novel. Maurice is so reprehensible that I cannot force myself to give this 5 stars because I hated him so much, but maybe because I hated him so much and that emotion was triggered in me, it deserves 5 stars? I'll have a think.
LibraryThing member runner56
A colourful, lusty comical look into the life of one Maurice Swift, who is both flamboyant and arrogant, in his attempt to become a world famous novelist. The only problem is that Swift had zero talent as an author and resorts to plagiarism to achieve his aims. As a narcissist he has no consideration or indeed cares about the needs and welfare of others and is quite happy to to sacrifice his closest friends to achieve his misguided aims and ambitions. Lovely lyrical writing by one of Ireland's finest authors and I enjoyed immensely.… (more)

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