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A Ladder to the Sky
by John Boyne




Overview -
"A satire of writerly ambition wrapped in a psychological thriller . . . An homage to Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, but its execution is entirely Boyne's own."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE

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.

Praise for A Ladder to the Sky

"Boyne's mastery of perspective, last seen in The Heart's Invisible Furies, works beautifully here. . . . Boyne understands that it's far more interesting and satisfying for a reader to see that narcissist in action than to be told a catchall phrase. Each step Maurice Swift takes skyward reveals a new layer of calumny he's willing to engage in, and the desperation behind it . . . so dark it seems almost impossible to enjoy reading A Ladder to the Sky as much as you definitely will enjoy reading it."--NPR

"Delicious . . . spins out over several decades with thrilling unpredictability, following Maurice as he masters the art of co-opting the stories of others in increasingly dubious ways. And while the book reads as a thriller with a body count that would make Highsmith proud, it is also an exploration of morality and art: Where is the line between inspiration and thievery? To whom does a story belong?"--Vanity Fair

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More About A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

 
 
 

Overview

"A satire of writerly ambition wrapped in a psychological thriller . . . An homage to Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, but its execution is entirely Boyne's own."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE

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.

Praise for A Ladder to the Sky

"Boyne's mastery of perspective, last seen in The Heart's Invisible Furies, works beautifully here. . . . Boyne understands that it's far more interesting and satisfying for a reader to see that narcissist in action than to be told a catchall phrase. Each step Maurice Swift takes skyward reveals a new layer of calumny he's willing to engage in, and the desperation behind it . . . so dark it seems almost impossible to enjoy reading A Ladder to the Sky as much as you definitely will enjoy reading it."--NPR

"Delicious . . . spins out over several decades with thrilling unpredictability, following Maurice as he masters the art of co-opting the stories of others in increasingly dubious ways. And while the book reads as a thriller with a body count that would make Highsmith proud, it is also an exploration of morality and art: Where is the line between inspiration and thievery? To whom does a story belong?"--Vanity Fair

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781984823014
  • ISBN-10: 1984823019
  • Publisher: Hogarth Press
  • Publish Date: November 2018
  • Page Count: 384
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.35 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

A Ladder to the Sky

Watch what you say around writers—so goes the oft-stated wisdom—because they just might immortalize you in a book. That may not apply to all authors, but it does for Maurice Swift, the protagonist of A Ladder to the Sky.

It would spoil the pleasure of reading John Boyne’s latest novel to describe most of its plot points, but let’s just say Yorkshire-born Swift is more determined than your average aspiring writer. He has two dreams: to become a celebrated author, and to have a child. And he’ll steal from anyone, starting with 65-year-old German writer Erich Ackermann, whom Swift meets in 1988 when he’s a young waiter in Berlin.

Soon, Ackermann, a gay man with long-suppressed desires, asks the fulsome Swift to accompany him to literary events around the world. Ackermann also shares details of his past, including his membership in the Hitler Youth and a fateful wartime decision regarding a childhood friend.

Swift betrays Ackermann by using his story as the basis for Two Germans, his debut novel. Boyne then presents scenes, most of them told from the perspectives of other characters, that chronicle the extremes Swift pursues to further his career. No one is safe, including Dash Hardy, an older gay writer Swift accompanies to Gore Vidal’s Italian villa; Swift’s wife, Edith, whose literary career is poised to take off just when Swift’s has stalled; and even Swift’s own teenage son.

Boyne sometimes paints in broad strokes, but he compensates with many wonderful touches. Exchanges between Vidal and Swift are deliciously venomous, and the digs at contemporary publishing are spot-on, as when Swift describes a debut novel he dislikes as, “Bridget Jones meets A Clockwork Orange.”

A Ladder to the Sky is an entertaining, if deeply cynical, portrait of the literary world.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

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