I had this book on my TBR shelf since a year, and thanks to the Unread Shelf Project 2020 challenge, I finally read this, and now I’m wondering, what took me so long? It’s a John Boyne book after all..I should have known he couldn’t go wrong, especially after A Heart’s Invisible Furies 🙂
How far would you go to achieve success? That’s the question I thought this book asks of its readers, from the book description. But when I finished the last sentence of the book, I closed it, exhaled, and was left feeling very confused. Because clearly, my moral compass’s answer to that question was very different from our main protagonist – Maurice Swift’s moral compass answer.
This is Maurice Swift’s story – a writer with little talent in the writing department but a lot of talent in the stealing department. Don’t worry, those are not spoilers, since they’re pretty much mentioned in the book description. I haven’t read about a more hateful character since Miss Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. But Miss Umbridge knew she was evil, and took pleasure in being evil. Here, Maurice Swift actually doesn’t think he is evil at all, and that’s where the conundrum starts.
***Potential Spoilers Ahead!!***
Maurice’s story is narrated over a span of years from his 20s to his 50s and is narrated from three major perspectives – Erich Ackerman, his wife Edith and finally by himself. There is a chapter in between narrated by Gore Vidal (unfortunately I hadn’t heard of him before this book or read his works, but from other reviews, I think he was a very popular author) and others. I had almost reached 70% of the book and just wanted some sort of retribution for all the awful acts that Maurice commits. I kept thinking to myself, don’t tell me he gets away with all of this! This can’t be the way the book ends! And finally, I got what I wanted for Maurice in the last 25% of the book. But by then, I felt awful for him. I didn’t know why I was feeling so bad for him. I didn’t know why I didn’t want him to get hurt and why I wanted him to come out of this too. We do see certain moments of empathy from Maurice, when he talks to his son, but, I was utterly confused during the last part of the book, regarding my feelings for him.
This book was great, not because it has a brilliant plot. For most parts, you can almost guess the plot. But for the creation of a character like Maurice’s. A psychopath, a narcissist and a sociopath with a single minded obsession. Someone who doesn’t have a moral compass when it comes to his obsession. Someone who is absolutely sure that he has done no wrong and what he did was in fact absolutely normal. How do you judge a person like that?
I also drew some interesting parallels in John’s writing style with Heart’s Invisible Furies – How he subtly adds in the title of the books towards the ends of each book (do look out for when a ladder to the sky comes up), like an easter egg, how he likes to use the name Arjan (wink), how there are always plot lines featuring gay men and their struggles during WW2 era, how he has to add in Hitler’s time period and its impact on their characters. I love everything about the way he writes, simple and with heart 🙂
For me, personally, I liked A Heart’s Invisible Furies more than A Ladder to the Sky, but I would still recommend this book highly, just to see your reactions to Maurice Swift! What a splendid character! 🙂
Now to the fun part! I have an additional unread and brand new hardcover of the same book in the below edition. The story goes like this. I had asked a friend to get me this book when she was traveling from UK to India last year and she lied to me saying she couldn’t find the book but had actually bought it as a surprise. In the meanwhile, I thought she was telling me the truth and went ahead and ordered a copy from Amazon for myself. Lol.. so now I have two copies of the same book.
So the one I want to give away or maybe exchange is the one below. I have owned it for a year but it has never been opened and to me it looks as good as a brand new book. But since I’ve got two copies of the book and I really enjoyed reading it, I would love to give it away to any reader who is interested in reading it or exchange for another book that you might want to give away😊
The only requirement is that you let me know if you’re interested and you have to be in India since shipping charges abroad will cost me more than the book cost! Lol!