Book Review: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: A Ladder to the Sky

Author: John Boyne

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: November 13, 2018

ISBN: 9780385692915

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 West Berlin hotel with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann gives him an opportunity to ingratiate himself with someone more powerful. For Erich is lonely, and he has a story to tell. Whether or not he should do so is another matter. 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. A psychological drama of cat and mouse, A Ladder to the Sky shows how easy it is to achieve the world if you are prepared to sacrifice your soul. 

A Ladder to the Sky is one ofj the most intense books that I’ve read in a long while. This thriller tells a deep and very dark tale of manipulation within the literary industry. It exposes the crimes of a fictional cut-throat literary figure in a most distressing and infuriating way. I hated this book almost the entire way through because I had such a deep loathing for the book’s central figure, Maurice Swift. The final chapter though turned hatred into love in a very satisfying ending. I walked away from this novel feeling uneasy, but also content. Boyne’s writing raises many contradictory feelings in the reader. This book is well-crafted and the writing is strong and pointed.

Maurice is not a likeable character. We don’t get much of a glimpse into Maurice’s inner monologue as the majority of the story is told by those around him. Even the section of the book from his perspective is marred by his alcohol intake and confusion, so we never get to really know how he operates. There is one short section in the middle told by Maurice, but it is so intrinsically wrapped up in his child that we don’t see much of him at all. We mostly only ever see the effect he has on others, not the true motivation that drives him to act the way he does. We, the readers, can only assume his impulses.

The story is told in sections. The first section is written by Erich Akermann, an older German writer with a dark secret who falls in love and is torn down by Maurice. The second is told by Dash Hardy, a slightly more successful writer that Akermann who takes Maurice under his wing, but who also falls prey to Maruice’s beauty and charm. The third perspective we see is by Maurice’s wife Edith, a successful debut author who’s career growth threatens to tilt her husband’s world on its axis. The final outside perspective is from a student named Theo Field whose thesis objective is to construct a detailed history on the life and stories of Maurice Swift, author extraordinaire.

At the very core of this book is Maurice himself and although readers might never know what drove him to behave in such sinister ways, they will certainly be affected by his manipulations and the darkness of his behaviour. His narcissism and his arrogance are his downfall, but it takes a long while and a long trail of destruction before retribution is to be had. His drive to find success leaves no stone unturned and no person unharmed.

I was blown away by this book. I flip-flopped from complete enchantment to deep longing to throw the novel across the room in fury. Ultimately though, I can say this is one of the best written novels I’ve read in a while. Any author that can evoke such all-consuming emotion is certainly talented. I hope you’ll enjoy A Ladder to the Sky as much as I did.

Published by wornpagesandink

Hi! I'm Jaaron. I'm a book-obsessed blogger, writer, reader, coffee-drinker, and dog-lover. I have a B.A.H. in English Literature and a post-graduate diploma in Book and Magazine publishing. I've been fortunate to have worked in both trade and educational publishing. If you have any recommendations for excellent reads, let me know!

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