Audiobook, Literary Fiction

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

A Ladder to the Sky

Maurice Swift is a writer who has reached success in what appears to be from unconventional and dubious ways. His story is told through the narratives of those he’s encountered who have significantly influenced his journey and have, in turn, been impacted by their encounters with him.

I knew going into this book that Maurice (pronounced as Morris) was going to be a challenging character to stick with but I wasn’t prepared for my strong repulsion of this man. The trail of human carnage he leaves behind is only tempered, at times, by their own shortcomings. Most of what we learn about him is through these narratives and they are brutally honest not only about Maurice but the storyteller. It makes them extremely reliable narrators, which set my expectations for his eventual perspective. Maurice’s ambition isn’t eclipsed by anything else in his makeup other than his lack of empathy. You just keep hoping that there will be some poetic justice by the end of the story.

I’m so glad I opted for the audio version as the multiple narrators were not only essential but outstanding in their passionate delivery of the story. The performances for Erich Ackerman and Gore Vidal were pitch perfect! I highly recommend the audiobook.

The title is born from the proverb “ambition is putting a ladder to the sky,” the sometimes futility of it and depths of a potential fall. This story is a compelling and ugly illustration of that in Maurice Swift. It had me questioning whether he’s a norm in the industry or an extreme outlier. Some of his behavior we’ve seen before, just not normally successfully sustained for as long as he was able to pull off. He uses his assets effectively, preying on the human condition in powerful ways. It’s a fascinating story that also shares insights into the writing arena that’s not pretty. I highly recommend it not for the salacious factor but because it exposes how someone like you and me can willing open herself or himself to be exploited and used by someone who doesn’t earn our trust but gets it simply because we’re drawn to superficial qualities or seeing what we want and desire instead of the reality.

Book Info

  • Release Date: November 13, 2018
  • Narrators: Richard E. Grant, Robert Cordery, Nina Sosanya & Laurence Kennedy
  • Audio Length: 11 hours, 33 minutes
  • Publisher: Random House Audio



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(Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)

43 thoughts on “A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne”

  1. Love your review! Maurice was a terrible human being! One of the worst I’ve ever read about I think!

    This week I think it was on Betty’s blog I saw that you answer three questions in your reviews, I was trying to figure out what they were, because I do love your reviews! And I’m trying to streamline my own, you don’t need to give me your secret, I was just trying to figure it out, LOL have a wonderful weekend girl!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Berit! Maurice was one of the more despicable literary characters I’ve read.

      Oh, I’d love to share. First, what’s the set up/premise of the story? (Goal – 2 or 3 sentences). Next, what worked, didn’t work about the story, characters and narration if applicable? Lastly, what’s the bottom line – why you liked it, didn’t like it, why you’d recommend. (I never include why I wouldn’t recommend.)

      Hope that’s helpful! It just makes me think about the book in more streamlined thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I enjoyed reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies, so I’ll have to bump this up on my TBR. Boyne’s so talented at dialogue and absorbing storytelling, even when you dislike certain characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not sure if this is my cup of tea or not. I read John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies a month or so ago, and it was a tough read, but I am glad I read it. Not sure if I am ready for another one just yet. I think I will try and get the audio version though as multiple narrators interest me a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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