A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne [Book Review]

Book Review

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Title: A Ladder to the Sky

Author: John Boyne

Publisher: Hogarth Press

Publish Date: November 13, 2018

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Series: na

My Rating: 4/5

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne


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.

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne


A manipulative man, Maurice Swift, makes a career as an author. Maurice has some basic skills as a writer, but he has a difficult time coming up with ideas. So, he takes ideas from others and claims them as his own.

A Ladder to the Sky is about a selfish rising author. He can write, but his stories are boring. He gets a taste of fame as a young man, and goes to great lengths to continue his career. The novel is divided into sections, which reflect Maurice’s life – a young man starting out, after receiving a taste of fame, married life, and life as a father. The different sections aren’t all told from Maurice’s point of view, in fact, a good deal of the novel is told from the viewpoint of Maurice’s targets (i.e., the victims).

The first part of this book is great. This is where we are introduced to Maurice, and his manipulative character is developed and his career is started. The second part of the novel is much darker. I was pulled into the manipulative world of Maurice, but the overall story felt somehow off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, because I enjoyed the book. I think the darker, more sinister turn later in the book took the story in a direction it didn’t necessarily need to go. Still, A Ladder to the Sky is a great read.

Maurice is a psychopath. His actions are somewhat unbelievable, but make for an entertaining read. Tragic, compelling, and frustrating.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

15 thoughts on “A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne [Book Review]

  1. Some authors have a hard time protraying people with mental illness. Psychopathy is hard to write because we know so little about it.

    1. At first, the main character just seemed like a jerk. Then I started thinking, whoa, this guy’s a sociopath. Then it got even darker. The character’s never diagnosed with any mental illness, but his behavior definitely leans one way.

    1. Thanks, Jonetta! I think you will enjoy this one. It’s getting a lot of good reviews, and most people don’t seem to think anything is off about it. It’s probably just me. ?

  2. I’ve read a few reviews with the same feelings. I’m not sure if this would be a good fit for me, great review!!

  3. I love your review and your honesty. I’ve read so many mixed reviews about this that I think it’s definitely a pass for me. I tend to get really picky over how authors write about mental illness.

  4. This is an interesting review. This is a book that has not been on my radar at all. I am not a bit lover of evil or sociopaths, but this one sounds like it has a different vibe. Great review.

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