Books, Review

Book Review: A Ladder to the Sky – John Boyne *****

a ladder to the sky john boyne book review

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 finished this book last night, reading way past my usual bedtime. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted Maurice to suffer.

Here’s the brilliance that is John Boyne, he makes you care. Back when I read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, I cared so much it made me cry. This story made me care so much I almost threw the book across the room. And the thing is, it’s not the main-character you care about here, I absolutely loathed him. You care about the side-characters (who aren’t always that great either). It’s through their eyes that the story is told.

I’m not sure how much I want to tell you about what happens in this book. I knew the basic premise (the first part of the book where Maurice meets and deceives Erich) but not much else. It was a (frustrating) pleasure to discover the rest.

Throughout the book, you get just enough hints to figure everything out before it happens. You know where it’s going and you’re unable to stop it from happening, you’re stuck on the sideline. Which made me want to scream. (And scream I did… sorry, Simon.)

The book is divided into three big parts and two interludes. Each part is written in a completely different way. Especially the middle part took me a minute to adjust but it was written perfectly. The endings of each part separately made me want to cry, the first two parts tears, the last in anger.

If you like reading about books and writing, and you’re okay with reading about a character you’ll want to punch in the face repeatedly, pick this one up. It’s so, so, so good.

This only being the second book I read by John Boyne, which should I pick up next?


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