A Ladder to the Sky is a wonderful book, but to speak of it will be akin to violating the rules of Fight Club.
Maurice Swift is a climber. He wants more than anything to achieve literary acclaim. In that endeavor, he surrounds himself with a circle of the literary elite. These aged, lonely, homosexual men glory in Maurice’s youthful beauty, yearning to possess just a piece of it. He, in turn, wishes to possess their talent, fame, legitimacy.
“Look around the foyer next time you’re there and ask yourself, ‘What would each of these people prefer that I didn’t know about them?’ And that’s where you’ll find your story.”
– John Boyne, A Ladder to the Sky
And that’s where I leave you. I really mean it. I can’t give you the details of this book. It would deprive you of the jaw-dropping revelations you’ll have the pleasure of discovering.
A Ladder to the Sky is a different experience from reading Boyne’s previous book, The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Where Furies is a bit overlong but ultimately delightfully heartwarming, A Ladder to the Sky is soul-crushing.
And here’s where I’ll insert my speech again in defense of unlikeable characters. It’s okay to have a book with a main character we hate. It’s an odd feeling, of course, to simultaneously dread and yearn for their downfall.
What can I say about this book, then?
Not much without giving it away. It’s been compared to The Talented Mr. RipleyA Ladder to the Sky is an excellent book. Excellent.
A Ladder to the Sky
Published November 2018