Thursday, 27 September 2018

A Ladder to the Sky - John Boyne

Maurice Swift is a little shit. I am not often given to expletives when writing reviews. I may think them or even say them aloud but write them? Rarely. However I’m afraid I just have to here. Rest assured that as expletives go it is tamer than my spoken utterances!! But Maurice Swift is a little shit! Oh, John Boyne, you have created a monster, Sir!!

At the heart of this satirical and disturbing novel is an exploration of writers, their motivation, their ambition, the relationships they may have with other writers - takes peer group pressure to a whole other level! And the idiots we can make of ourselves when love enters our frail and hungry hearts. Not to mention a dig or two at book prizes and awards. 

This book is arranged into three parts with two interludes separating the parts. and all of them examines the relationships that Maurice has with various people who populate his life. However he has but one aim in mind in all of these associations and that is his compulsive, obsessive ambition to be a writer and reach the zenith of his chosen profession. And also to father a child. How he does these things  is potentially immoral and erring towards the side of the psychopath.

Stirring stuff eh? It makes for a humdinger of a tale I can tell you! Prior to reading this novel I was that cliche who had only read one book by John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but this book has speedily elevated my impression of Mr. Boyne. It’s a verbally energetic piece of writing that flows and takes the reader where the reader is required to be. His characters are drawn to elicit just the right amount of emotion from us - we weep for poor, trusting Edith, we sigh and shake our heads at the pointless devotion of Erich and we are gleeful as Gore uses his weapons of words to momentarily disconcert Maurice. But we long for Maurice to get his comeuppance  Or is that just me? I suppose it could be argued that though time immemorial stories have been handed down in one form or another without question of ownership. But it’s a flimsy argument where Maurice is concerned. 

This has made me ponder about authors and their ideas. As readers do we ever question where the writers we love get their ideas from. Is plagiarism endemic in the world of literature? Maurice asserts in the book that the most irritating question a writer can be asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ . Goodness knows I’ve asked many a writer that. I’m feeling bad about it now!! But Maurice’s  answer is a revealing one - ‘…no one knows where they come from and nobody should know.They evolve in thin air, they float down from some mysterious heaven and we reach out to grab one, to grasp it in our imagination and to make it our own.’

And forgive me but I am left with a worrying thought as to how this idea came to John Boyne and I do hope it is not from personal experience!! It’s a fascinating read thought and I thank Nudge Books for the opportunity. 

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