Ambition Before Morals is Bad for Your Skin, Maurice: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

It doesn’t happen often in real life. That moment AFTER someone you know and maybe even admire tells you something that just completely shatters your opinion of them, and that person displays a complete lack of any self-awareness whatsoever to understand they are in fact, a bad person.

Wow, Maurice. I mean, really.

I bought John Boyne’s “A Ladder to the Sky” shortly after finishing “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” early last year because I loved, loved, LOVED that book and couldn’t wait to read another one by Boyne. And then it sat — not for lack of interest, it just had the misfortune of constantly finding itself underneath another two or three books I had set my mind to reading. Thanks to quarantine, and lack of access to the library, I started to make progress on the TBR pile. And I can only say this — shame on me for waiting so long.

Fans of “Invisible Furies” be forewarned — whereas I cried ugly with that read and had nothing but love for its characters, this book’s protagonist is a cad at best and downright villainous at worst. And Maurice Swift is often at his worst. This is not a “He’s so bad he’s good” kind of thing. No, he’s a bad, bad guy. That said, the book? It’s so good. Carb up and start mainlining caffeine, because once you get going, you will not put this down.

Boyne’s tale of ambition above all else is actually told through the eyes of several characters that are swept up into Maurice Swift’s web of lies. A wannabe writer, Swift befriends and occasionally beds authors more talented or better connected than he, taking every advantage possible of their friendship before tossing them aside as he climbs the ladder of success.

There’s Erich Ackermann, who misjudges Swift as a trustworthy confidante, spilling his tea and ending his own career in the process. Dash Hardy, the bombastic American novelist who falls head over heels in lust with Maurice and is left in the dust when Swift secures an American publisher.

Then there’s Swift’s wife Edith — as if having a bitch on wheels for a sister isn’t bad enough, she has to deal with Swift’s machinations. Poor Edith. And Daniel. Jaysus, Maurice. Daniel was your son. Your SON. What the ever-loving hell?

Maurice is beholden to no moral compass by which we, non-sociopathic humans are guided by in our day-to-day decision making. He sees no wrong in any of his misdeeds. To him, it’s just business. Even if it means someone dies.

This isn’t a lighthearted read, but I gotta say, it wasn’t particularly heavy or depressing. Rather, it read a lot like a thriller. There’s something entertaining in being continually shocked at just far for someone will go to get The Prize.

And wow, can he put away the booze. My goodness.

“A Ladder to the Sky” is the kind of read with such well-drawn characters you immediately start envisioning the Netflix serial. I’ve already got Henry Cavill cast as Maurice. Maybe Chris Cooper as Erich Ackermann. Colin Firth as Dash. Teyonah Parris as Edith … This is a novel well worth your time. If you are looking for a page turner, don’t pass it up.

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