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362 pages, Hardcover
First published August 9, 2018
Everyone has secrets, I had remarked. There’s something in all our pasts that we wouldn’t want to be revealed.
In evolutionary biology, parasitism is a relationship between species, where one organism, the parasite, lives on or in another organism, the host, causing it some harm, and is adapted structurally to this way of life. The entomologist E. O. Wilson has characterized parasites as "predators that eat prey in units of less than one" - WikipediaWell, sometimes a host gets to be an entire feast. Maurice Swift can be plenty charming, and he is quite something to look at, but he has issues with morality, and is possessed of a very considerable and toxic ambition. He wants to be a writer. Not just any writer. He wants to be a world-famous writer, winner of The Prize. And he does have talent. He can write. The only problem is that he is a form without substance. Maurice cannot, for the life of him, come up with any story ideas. Luckily for Maurice, the world is bubbling with such talents. It is left to Maurice to attach himself to those who are able to concoct stories, or even just recount good stories from real life, and drain what he can from them before casting aside their empty husks. We begin when young Maurice latches on to Erich Ackermann, an aging gay writer who has lived almost his entire life bereft of romance. Preying on Erich’s desperation, Swift slowly draws from the once top-tier talent a life story of unrequited love during the days of Hitler, and a heinous betrayal that has haunted Ackermann all his life.
…when I was writing this, I watched as many documentaries as I could. I wanted to capture his voice, and I felt that with somebody like that, because he was so sharp, so funny, and so clever, you've really got to raise your game. I felt very sure that Vidal would be the only person in the book who would see through Maurice and not be taken in by him. I worked very, very hard on that section and all of his lines to make sure that they sounded right, that if he was still with us and if he read it, he would feel that I haven't let him down. - from the Goodreads interviewBoyd does a wonderful job of ratcheting up tension, the same result, if not the kitsch, of the little child running back into room where a monster was last seen, to retrieve a favorite stuffy. “You idiot, don’t do it! Come back!” We can see the perils long before his marks do, and even get a pretty good idea of how Maurice is going about his crimes. And we wonder, just how long can this son of a bitch keep getting away with it? If you find this unrealistic, I would recommend for your consideration the question of why Donald J. Trump has not seen the inside of a jail cell for his lifetime of crimality. Sometimes monsters walk free regardless of what they have done.
“He came from an experience I had a number of years ago with an aspiring writer who sort of attached himself to me,” he says. “We formed quite a strong friendship and it developed into an unhealthy situation. I was very drawn to this man. I’m no innocent in terms of how it all worked out. We were both maybe using each other slightly. The guy was aware of the fact that I’d a crush on him. I was just charmed to be around him. It eventually reached a point where I had to confront that. Not that I was interested in confronting him about it but confronting myself about why I was allowing myself to be manipulated.”from the Gilmartin interviewYou can enjoy this novel on two levels. It is a something of a thriller, watching Maurice wend his way through serial victims. How far will he go, what will he do to achieve his ambitions? And what will he do to keep his true self hidden? On another level this is a wonderful satire on writers and writerly ambition, what they do to get ahead, the networking, light and dark, that fuels success.
“Sitting there that day on a bench in the Caffarella Park, this twenty-two-year-old boy made me long to reveal my secrets in the most self-destructive way imaginable. I wanted to confide in him, to tell him my story.”The story Erich tells Maurice, in private, is about his young adulthood in Germany just before the second world war, where he meets Oskar Gött, and is captivated by this young man. Their friendship grows with Erich developing deeper feelings for Oskar and they become more and more aware of secrets they each harbour, including their views of the Nazi’s, their Jewish ancestry, their love of prohibited art and of course, Erich’s homosexuality. When it’s revealed that Oskar has a girlfriend he has fallen in love with, Erich is spiteful, having previously out of pure jealousy, discredited his nude painting of her, as vulgar and mediocre. The unbeloved Erich reacts to their leaving Germany in an atrocious fashion. All this becomes the subject of Maurice's first book 'Two Germans'.
Oh the power of beauty....and John Boyne's addictive writing....once again!
Meet Maurice Swift....you won't forget him! He wants to be a famous author. He's just a young man of 17 when first introduced, but is already hungry for attention and fame from the literary world. AND, oh yeah, he is a downright heart throbbing, mesmerizing beauty of a man....desired by both species....and dam well knows it!
As this bloodsucking worm of a human being manipulates his way throughout his sorry life to get what he wants, many lives are ruined, devastating secrets revealed and horrors committed for the purpose of self-achievement. HE WILL DO ANYTHING! LIE, CHEAT, STEAL, BETRAY....and WORSE! I once watched a movie (with Julia Roberts) where she said she was lower than pond scum, and her cohort said she was WORSE....she was the pus that infects the mucus that feeds on the pond scum....or something like that. Well, Maurice is even WORSE than that.....MUCH WORSE!
A LADDER TO THE SKY is a shocking and sad story with many dark moments, but oh the writing and oh the characters. My gosh, what Rebecca does, and poor Erich, what he did as a young teen was indeed horiffic, but I admit to feeling a bit sorry for him as an old man.
As the story moves along, the reader can feel what's coming as Maurice becomes the very WORST of himself....over and over. But then we have the policewoman scene. The dialogue here absolutely cracked me up!
And I must at least mention Theo and his thesis.....HA! And oh boy the ending......No. No. No. No. No. No. No. It just can't be!
Boyne's THE HEARTS INVISIBLE FURIES was by far my 2017 favorite read. Will A LADDER TO THE SKY be my No. 1 for 2018? Only four months to go!
Many thanks to Crown Publishing via NetGalley for the arc COMING NOVEMBER 13, 2018!