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A Ladder to the Sky

A Novel
Length: 11 hrs and 32 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (440 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“An addictive Rubik’s Cube of vice that keeps turning up new patterns of depravity...a satire of writerly ambition wrapped in a psychological thriller...A Ladder to the Sky is an homage to Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, but its execution is entirely Boyne’s own." (Ron Charles, Washington Post)

“Take Meg Wolitzer's novel The Wife...and cross it with Patricia Highsmith's classic Ripley stories, about a suave psychopath, and you've got something of the crooked charisma of John Boyne's new novel, A Ladder to the Sky." (NPR)  

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 20th 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.

©2018 John Boyne (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"John Boyne’s delicious new novel A Ladder to the Sky...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)

"Maurice has the heart of a sniper...marvelously engaging, barbed and witty." (New York Times Book Review)

"A darkly funny novel that races like a beating heart." (People)

“Boyne's mastery of perspective, last seen in 2017's 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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This is a very smart book

How many times, after reading The Heart's Invisible Furies and The House of Special Purpose, have I told my friends that John Boyne's voice is different in every book; While Heart's is filled with a scathing gay sensibility and campy humor, House of Special Purpose is somber and absolutely "Russian." Yet here, in this book, we find the same thing said about Morris--a ladder climber, a thief and the most terrifying of psychopaths. I admit, as a 56 year old gay man who finds himself single in this modern world, that the story of Morris and Eric terrifies me, that desire can blind someone so perfectly that he is complicit in his own duplicitous downfall. This book is a psychologically terrifying book that traumatized me. I look warily at my dogs and pet birds as I'm not sure that they, too, are out to get me. The ending had me shaking my head, saying "No, John Boyne, No." Heart's is still my absolute favorite but this book is smart, clever and enjoyable. Loved the reference to "Light to the Lark" and absolutely adored Gore Vidal. I usually walk my dogs two miles twice per day. My dogs are snoring now as it took four miles this evening to finish the book. Kudos, John Boyne. You are my new favorite author. I'm using your book "Hearts" in my Introduction to LGBT Studies this spring.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Excellent

It’s just excellent, and my advice is don’t turn it off in the beginning and keep listening it will keep you wanting more... just excellent

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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it made me squirm

The story was a little predictable, but the interpersonal interactions were so full unspoken and spoken conflict that I had to turn it off to regain my composure...not since "Who's Afraid of Virginia"...

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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How devious and diabolical can a person be?

The main character of the book, Maurice Swift, gave me an edgy feeling from the start. As Erich Ackerman detailed his tragic love story and unintended consequences, I sensed Maurice had a plan for himself. From he beginning, there was no one Maurice wouldn't step on to make his own dream come true. Every person he could gain something from was his victim in some fashion or other. No one was safe.
Boyne writes Maurice as a beautifully handsome man without soul or conscience. Every time a different character was introduced, I mentally said, Uh-oh. Surely, he couldn't, but then, he did.
Great story. Great narration. One of the best I've listened to for a while.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Not my favorite Boyne

I’m going to be contrary. I loved The Hearts Invisible Furies. In fact so much it’s one of my top 5 favs of all times. In Boyne’s latest, he gives us an utterly despicable human being in Maurice. My three star rating has nothing to do with the writing, which is superb. It comes from me just not being as engaged in the storyline. It felt a little too long with additional characters that will be soon forgettable. I recommend Hearts to everyone who asks me for recommendations.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Wish there we 20 novels by John Boyne yet unread!!

His work is the best writing and story I have had the pleasure to discover

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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BRILLIANT NOVEL WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES

It's both a psychological thriller and a black comedy. The performances are masterful and the psychological understanding (I'm a psychologist) are observed with richness and intensity. Both tense and humorous with the Gore Vidal section one of the best pieces of dialogue and character I've ever read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Excellent!

LOVED IT! Finally a book that I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end.

I listened to this book and at the beginning I had a slight hard time with the accent but once it got going, no problem and got sucked right in. What a great story. Book 2 I kind of figured what was going to happen but so much more happened that it was a small victory on my part. Book 3, now, that was crazy but I loved it. Probably my favorite book so far this year.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Must

Incredibly unique story. Loved every bit of it, and could not stop listening. The readers were spectacular.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Terrific, compelling story......

I am a selective reader and have to say that this story is one of my all time favorites. Boyne's language; dialogue; and plot development is outstanding! A great study of a genuine Psychopath! Thank you!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful