*Just a gentle note, this review may contain small spoilers*
I’ve never read a John Boyne book before. Well, I did Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in school… but being a book blogger, I’ve been immersed in a community and discovering new books and new authors, and even big and established authors, such as Boyne. I have seen a lot of love for John Boyne’s last book, The Heart’s Invisible Furies – it was everywhere and everyone shouting it from the rooftops. And then I saw the cover for A Ladder To The Sky and I was just… astounded, really. I just *love* that cover – it’s just gorgeous. And I was even more intrigued when I read the blurb online. I knew I wanted to read it straight away – especially seeing the gorgeous proof copies. Months passed and this book become more and more anticipated and I just couldn’t wait to grab myself a copy. So, A Ladder To The Sky… what’s it all about? Here’s the blurb:
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 Ackerman 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 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 dark and twisted psychological drama, A Ladder to the Sky shows how easy it is to achieve the world if you are prepared to sacrifice your soul.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? For me, the blurb is very clever. It doesn’t give too much about the book, not at all in fact. It’s very ambiguous and sets the book up in an intriguing way. As I’ve said, I haven’t read a book from John Boyne before (other than in school) so I wasn’t used to his voice and writing style. At first, I did feel a bit overwhelmed and couldn’t get my through the first page. But then one day, something clicked and I couldn’t stop turning page after page and it continued like that throughout the entire book.
I don’t want to say much about the plot because it’s a plot that isn’t easy to describe but also, I think it’s a book that you just have to read for yourself. There’s so much going on and brilliant twists and turns that I think it’s more impactful when reading. There were several moments that I gasped and swore under my breath… don’t you just love a book that makes you do that? But no, it’s a brilliant plot that’s very clever and twisted and I couldn’t stop myself going back for more.
There are some wonderful characters in this book. We meet a good few along the course of the book and they are all brilliantly written. Erich is the most intriguing of all the characters, I think. There was this sort of melancholy to his character and story. I loved reading about Erich growing up under Hitler’s rule and found his story captivating, upsetting and heartbreaking all at once. I think my favourite character is Edith. Right from the moment we meet her, I fell in love with her. Her character just bounced off the page. She’s a character that you persevere and get behind and root for. There’s a big moment where everything changes and it’s hard to say without spoiling it, but I thought it was brilliant way of telling a narrative and something I haven’t read much of before. I also thought the rest of the characters were an interesting bunch and well-written.
Now, let’s talk about Maurice. What a character. He’s everything you want him to be: charming, handsome, captivating, brilliant, witty, snarky, sexy, etc. He’s a character that I think not only challenges everyone around him but the reader too. I don’t think every character has to be likeable, especially the main principal character in books and you don’t have to like what they do either but you can still like to read them. And I think that’s the case with Maurice. There’s so many ways you can read/talk about Maurice (or even analyse). I think Boyne uses Maurice beautifully and asks important questions. Maurice is one of my new favourite literary characters, I think. Everything about him I wanted more. He’s like Heathcliff in a sense, I think. He does awful and terrible things but there’s something about him that you’ve got to keep on reading, not looking back. I don’t agree with everything he’s done, but he’s a brilliant and readable character. But underneath of all of that, lies ambition. That’s what drives Maurice as a character. Wanting to climb that ladder and be successful. But at what price?
‘And you’ve heard the old proverb about ambition, haven’t you?’
He shook his head.
‘That it’s like setting a ladder to the sky.’
This is a great, bold and brilliant piece of work. I really think it’s a stroke of genius. Boyne has created a masterpiece of literary fiction with dark, twisted and flawed characters in a world that captivates you and holds you, making you keep turning page after page. After this, I’m going to read the rest of Boyne’s novels; I’m so excited to read The Heart’s Invisible Furies. At the moment, this is my book of the year and I think it will be yours too. Dark. Flawed. Sexy. Twisted. Addictive. A truly stroke of genius. I’m in awe.
As I’ve said at the start of this review, I’m so thankful to being part of the book/book blogging community and reading new and established authors. I can’t wait to read John Boyne’s novels and I’m eager to start Patrick Gale’s Take Nothing With You and Kate Atkinson’s Transcription. Two established authors that I can’t wait to read – starting with their new novels.
If you’ve read Less, I think this would be a great read for you next. You can read my review for Less, here.
Have you read A Ladder To The Sky yet? Are you a fan of John Boyne’s writing? Are there any established authors I should be reading? Let me know in the comments!