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Publisher's Summary

"Clever, chilling, and beautifully paced; a study of inner corrosion that Patricia Highsmith herself could not have done better." [The Times (London)]

Esquire: Best Books of 2018 (So Far)

Town & Country: "5 Books You Need to Read in November"

Vulture: "Best New Books of November"

A seductive, pause-resisting psychodrama following one cunning, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of success.

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for fame. 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....

Sweeping across the late 20th century, A Ladder to the Sky is a fascinating portrait of a relentlessly immoral man, a tour de force of storytelling, and the next great novel from an acclaimed literary virtuoso.

©2018 John Boyne (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"John Boyne’s delicious new novel A Ladder to the Sky...spins out over several decades with thrilling unpredictability, following Maurice as he masters the art of co-opting the stories of others in increasingly dubious ways. And while the book reads as a thriller with a body count that would make Highsmith proud, it is also an exploration of morality and art: Where is the line between inspiration and thievery? To whom does a story belong?" (Vanity Fair)

"Maurice has the heart of a sniper...marvelously engaging, barbed and witty." (New York Times Book Review)

"A darkly funny novel that races like a beating heart." (People)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Carmen
  • 2018-11-20

Excellent

It’s just excellent, and my advice is don’t turn it off in the beginning and keep listening it will keep you wanting more... just excellent

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • snack
  • los angeles
  • 2018-12-08

it made me squirm

The story was a little predictable, but the interpersonal interactions were so full unspoken and spoken conflict that I had to turn it off to regain my composure...not since "Who's Afraid of Virginia"...

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • roseanne woerner
  • 2018-11-29

How devious and diabolical can a person be?

The main character of the book, Maurice Swift, gave me an edgy feeling from the start. As Erich Ackerman detailed his tragic love story and unintended consequences, I sensed Maurice had a plan for himself. From he beginning, there was no one Maurice wouldn't step on to make his own dream come true. Every person he could gain something from was his victim in some fashion or other. No one was safe.
Boyne writes Maurice as a beautifully handsome man without soul or conscience. Every time a different character was introduced, I mentally said, Uh-oh. Surely, he couldn't, but then, he did.
Great story. Great narration. One of the best I've listened to for a while.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Autodidact
  • New York
  • 2018-12-02

Wish there we 20 novels by John Boyne yet unread!!

His work is the best writing and story I have had the pleasure to discover

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan
  • New York City
  • 2018-11-29

Predictable.

Utterly unlikeable protaganist. Low stakes. Nothing pulled me along except astonishment that Maureen Corrigan gave this a good review. I wish I hadn't finished it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • jake
  • 2018-12-14

Eh

I don't mean to be purely negative about this book as it is clearly written with skill. John Boyne appears to be of the opinion that ever author is animalistic or just indifferent to normal human relationships as a whole leaving them spitefully grappling for existence through stories. Any attempt to enjoy this story was also torpedoed by massive amounts of foreshadowing leaving the payoff flat and having the sense of finally arriving to sing a song we are already tired of. The charactors are skillfully written though even if not one of them is ever truely deeply examined. I did however enjoy the way the passage of time was examined from altering viewpoints relying on the reader to assemble the parts. overall this is a pessimist viewpoint and if you are looking for confirmation that the world is entirely an old boys club this book is for you.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • V.L.
  • 2018-12-12

The best I've read in a very long time! 💚💚💚💚💚

Hated for it to end. Excellent story! Filled with emotion and reality. I will be reading more John Boyne! 💜

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  • Kristin
  • 2018-12-09

Wonderfully told!

Loved this. What an incredible character study. Told in different periods of Maurice Swift’s life - whose 2 goals in life are to be an accomplished writer and a father - at any cost. Wonderfully told. Love John Boyne’s writing

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  • Eamon A. Daly
  • 2018-12-05

Couldn't stop listening!

John Boyne entertains us with another beautiful story that is captivating from beginning to end! I had a good chuckle when Maude Avery's name was mentioned.