Welcome to a writer’s worst nightmare.
Maurice Swift is handsome, charismatic, ambitious and lacks the talent needed to become a successful writer on his own merits.
As a young man, Maurice becomes the obsession of author Erich Ackermann. Maurice needs Erich to help his career along and Erich has other intentions. As they develop some semblance of a relationship Erich confesses to Maurice a terrible act he committed in concert with the Nazis resulting in the deaths of four people.
Maurice in turn takes this story and packages it as the novel, Two Germans, and his career takes off while simultaneously destroying Ackermann’s career and essentially his life.
After the success of his first novel, his sophomore book has less than stellar results and Maurice marries an up and coming author who narrates the second part of the book addressing Maurice as “you” – an interesting twist in narration.
One calculating move after another leads the reader to realize that Maurice may not be who he appears to be. My jaw dropped multiple times as I went back to make sure I understood what had just happened.
John Boyne is an incredibly talented writer – The Heart’s Invisible Furies is in my own top five books. I downloaded this audiobook expecting a good book but this was another phenomenal book – different from Furies but with some shared similarities.
In both books references to real authors are made. In Furies the main character is always reading James Joyce or another Irish literature giant. Boyne takes it a step further in Ladder with Gore Vidal appearing as a guest star in the book.
An exchange between the two men served as the shift from young aspiring author to a more sinister Maurice.
There is also a nod to Maude Avery – a reference Furies readers will appreciate.
These literary details gave this book a solid footing when at times you felt as if you were reading the impossible.
I personally love books about writers writing, the publishing process, and literary criticism and this book was simply phenomenal, even for someone who doesn’t find that process to be all that interesting.
At the heart, it is a character study and one can only imagine how Boyne went about developing such dark yet interesting characters that will keep a reader engaged despite how despicable a character is behaving.
Mark this one down as one of my top books of 2019 – even if it’s only July.