TAS's Reviews > A Ladder to the Sky

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
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it was amazing

John Boyne is a relatively new discovery for me, a writer of immense talent. In his latest novel, he not only tells a compelling story with a complex protagonist, but also explores the integrity of the publishing business. AND, as if that weren't enough, he forced me to ponder the nature of personal morality in a way that STILL has me thinking.

The central character is Maurice Swift. When we meet him he is a young and very handsome waiter working in Berlin with only two life ambitions: he wants to be a successful writer and he wants to become a father. He is fascinated with stories. When Maurice spots an older, well-known British author in the cafe, he introduces himself and the two begin a friendship that begins to open doors for Maurice.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book is its changing voice. While Maurice eventually narrates SOME of his own story, much of what we learn about him comes from the viewpoint of others who enter and then fade out of Maurice's life. First, from that older writer at the cafe, Erich Ackermann. Then, from a second-rate American writer, Dash Hardy, to whom Maurice is introduced. Later, author Gore Vidal crosses Maurice's path. Then from Maurice's wife and son. And much later, from a would-be biographer.

Central to Maurice is his ambition. As his story progresses, we begin to witness all the ways he uses both his looks and those around him to advance his career. It beings with simple "networking." But slowly, as he achieves greater success and reveals more about himself, Maurice's interactions and decision-making become more questionable.

Along the way, Boyne manages to raise other profound questions. Is the publishing industry overly ruthless in its quest for financial success? How important are looks to achieving success? If a mistake, made in youth, comes to light when the perpetrator is much older, should it still matter? Exactly where is "the line" that should NEVER be crossed when trying to achieve your dream?

Anytime I come across a book that offers me a great story AND forces me to BOTH think about important life questions AND feel strong emotions, I consider that great literature. This book easily qualifies.

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Reading Progress

August 1, 2019 – Shelved
August 1, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
October 22, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
November 11, 2019 – Started Reading
November 16, 2019 – Finished Reading

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