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'A deliciously dark tale of ambition, seduction and literary theft . . . an ingeniously conceived novel that confirms Boyne as one of the most assured writers of his generation.' Hannah Beckerman, Observer
You’ve heard the old proverb about ambition, that it’s like setting a ladder to the sky. It can lead to a long and painful fall.
If you look hard enough, you will find stories pretty much anywhere. They don’t even have to be your own. Or so would-be-novelist Maurice Swift decides early on in his career.
A chance encounter in a Berlin hotel with celebrated author Erich Ackerman gives Maurice an opportunity. For Erich is lonely, and he has a story to tell; whether or not he should is another matter.
Once Maurice has made his name, he finds himself in need of a fresh idea. He doesn’t care where he finds it, as long as it helps him rise to the top. Stories will make him famous, but they will also make him beg, borrow and steal. They may even make him do worse.
This is a novel about ambition.
'Maurice Swift, the novelist protagonist of John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky, is a bookish version of Patricia Highsmith’s psychopathic antihero Tom Ripley' The Times
'A dark morality tale in the mould of Patricia Highsmith . . . consistently intriguing' Daily Mail
This evocative saga from Boyne (The Heart's Invisible Furies) presents the Machiavellian literary success of Maurice Swift. In the late 1980s, Swift is an aspiring writer working as a waiter in West Berlin when he meets acclaimed author Erich Ackermann. Despite Swift's inexperience, Ackermann is besotted by Swift's beauty and coy sycophancy and employs him as his assistant. In a fruitless effort to win Swift's affections, Ackermann entrusts him with his darkest secret: in 1939, information he gave SS officers led to the deaths of five people. Swift then uses Ackermann's stories as the basis of a commercially successful novel, and to incriminate Ackermann. But Ackermann is just his first victim, and for the next 30 years, Swift's ruthlessness flourishes as he manipulates others' sexual desires and talents to further his literary career. Swift's story spans the fall of the Berlin Wall to the present day as his career's demise is related from the perspectives of Ackermann; a fictionalized Gore Vidal; Swift's wife, novelist Edith Camberley; and finally Swift himself. In his relentless pursuit of literary canonization, despite creative impotence, Swift is an enthralling yet profoundly disturbing protagonist. Boyne's fast-paced, white-knuckle plot, accompanied by delightfully sardonic commentary on the ego, insecurities, and pitfalls of those involved in the literary world, makes for a truly engrossing experience.