book reviews

Alyssa’s Reviews – A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (FC)

“One said that literature was more important than human life so what was the problem if a few people had died in the pursuit of excellence?” – pg. 358, ALTTS

Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

A few months ago, I found out that John Boyne was publishing a new literary fiction novel about a story stealer (among other things). And while I had not read John’s recent novel, I had loved “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” when I was younger, so I was eager to pick up the novel and start reading it. Fortunately, I received a finished copy of the book from Penguin Random House Canada, which was unbelievably amazing!

NOTE: Some of this review may be sort of spoiler-y, as you don’t meet many of the main characters until the second section of the novel. I would encourage you not to read much about this book until after you have read it, as I feel that this story reads better when you do not know much about it. So, comeback and read my review when you have finished the book!

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Synopsis (Goodreads.com):

The new novel from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Heart’s Invisible Furies , a seductive Highsmithian psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of fame.
Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. 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…

WOW. This story was shockingly beautiful. Although this book was 400 pages long, it read extremely quickly. I find that many times when I read books, I glance at the page number while reading every so often, but while reading this novel that rarely happened. I also enjoyed how it was written kind of as an anthology that came together in the end. Each part of the book was narrated by a different person and had a different focus on a certain point/event in Maurice’s life. I enjoyed that his POV was not written until the last part of the novel, as it was easier to see how people saw him and how he viewed himself.

Throughout this story, I felt very connected to all of the characters. While most of the main characters are only present throughout one part of the story, John did a great job developing them within a limited space in the novel. I felt that I had read a lot about the characters and understood them, even if they were only a large part of 100 pages of the novel. I appreciated John’s writing style especially when it came to the characters, because we weren’t introduced to them all at the beginning of the novel, but rather learned and read about them during every few 100 pages.

During the first part of the novel (and carried through the story a bit), there was a large realistic historical fiction aspect, which I greatly enjoyed. From reading just the synopsis, I did not know that there would be a focus on WWII. When I was younger, I loved reading books about the holocaust and WWII, although I haven’t read much historical fiction throughout the past five years (a.k.a. when I started my blog). Reading about this aspect made me want to read more historical fiction novels, so I hope to pick up a few sporadically throughout the year!

One of my favourite things to read about is publishing/writing/authors in a fictional book. Since the main character, Maurice, was a story stealer and a well-acclaimed author, this meant that the book had a strong focus on the publishing industry and writing novels. I have always thought about working in publishing, so I really enjoyed reading the small conversations between Maurice and his publisher and editor, as well as seeing exactly how he brought the stolen stories to life.

The one and only thing I did not love about this book was that I found many of the events very predictable, and there was not a shocking plot twist at any point during the book (the ending did not shock me, but it did slightly surprise me). I understand that this book is not supposed to be full of shocks and 180° plot twists as it was a literary fiction book and not a thriller, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it even more if there was a spike of surprise in the novel.

Overall, I loved this book and gave it 4.75/5 stars.

Thanks again to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a finished copy of this novel! It was superb!

Have any of you read this novel yet? Let me know in the comments and we can discuss!

Good Night Book Owls!

13 thoughts on “Alyssa’s Reviews – A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (FC)

  1. I have never read any books by John before but yeah, I also always check how many pages left😂😊
    I am happy you loved it, thankyou for your review

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