A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (NetGalley Review)

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Publisher: Hogarth (November 13, 2018)
Description from the publisher:
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…

Holy moly, y'all! This book was absolutely crazy, crazy good. John Boyne has solidified himself as one of my auto-buy authors, and I definitely want to catch up on his backlist. I was nervous going into this, seeing as how The Heart's Invisible Furies was my favorite book last year, and even in the last ten years. This novel also sounded so very different than his previous works. Yet his ability to create a character study with an utterly compelling plot is spot on.
Each section of the book is told from the point of view of a character that (unwittingly) helps the single minded Maurice move up the ladder of literary fame - including an entertaining interlude with Gore Vidal. The chapters start out quietly absorbing, with witty dialogue and dry humor that begins to take a dark turn with excruciating foreshadowing. The section from his wife Edith's perspective, written in the second person, is utterly haunting and I literally could not put the book down until I finished her story. Then I was riveted until the very end as Maurice narrated the final chapter, and I guffawed at the satisfying and darkly humorous end.
A Ladder to the Sky would make for a superior book club discussion, with a lot of themes to chew on. What are the consequences of our actions when we are young? Should our mistakes color our lives and work as an adult? What kind of mistakes? (Rather timely, no?) Or the concept of ownership and plagiarism - what stories are ours to tell? There was a good deal that was reminiscent of Ann Patchett's Commonwealth in this regard. 
Some readers are turned off by unlikeable characters, and oftentimes I can understand why - I wrote a bit about this subject awhile ago here. But when it comes to a suspenseful novel, they totally work for me and Maurice is a deliciously evil villain that one can't help love to loathe. If this is a stumbling point, I would still wholeheartedly endorse this book, as I do not believe anyone would regret the experience.
Thank you so very much to the folks at Hogarth and NetGalley for a complimentary digital galley in exchange for my honest review!


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