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2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.

Book Review: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

What an amazing and horrifying and insightful and incredible read this was!! And to think, I almost put it down in the beginning… This was my first John Boyne – but DEFINITELY not my last. His characters are difficult (personality-wise, not to read – his writing is gorgeous) and I was struggling to fall into the story at first – or even to figure out who exactly the book was about. But I read so many reviews that gushed, so kept going – and am so very glad I did because this was a fantastically-crafted book!

The POV changes from section to section, and if you haven’t remembered or reread the blurb, as I had not, it’s easy to forget who you’re actually reading about because for most of the book the first person narrator is in fact not the protagonist (who is, incidentally, the antagonist too). It’s an unusual construct, and that’s what I was struggling with a bit in the beginning – I was looking for the “relentlessly immoral man” but found myself reading about a waiter and an author. I don’t always do well with non-traditional narrative styles – they often feel like gimmicks for the sake of being gimmicks – but once I hit my stride with this one (fairly early on) I was hooked and you couldn’t pry the book out of my hands…

Boyne has an incredible ability to paint characters that jump off the page, even when the “action” they are engaged in is inactive. He’s a phenomenal wordsmith and the story creeps into your subconscious, tangling itself into your mind until you can’t help but read it compulsively. Maurice is deplorable – utterly and completely and unapologetically so. But he’s a delicious kind of deplorable, and you can’t stop yourself from flipping pages to see what horrible device he will employ next in his unrelenting quest for fame and glory. The characters who fall to him are brilliantly contrived to both meet his/the plot’s needs AND to stand on their own as relatable humans who each suffered from a fatal flaw of their own and whose downfall is both shocking and banal at the same time. To me, that’s the true brilliance here – the evil is on naked display but much of it is massaged so it creeps up on you in intensity until BAM! it smacks you over the head with a two by four.

This was an incredible book and I am definitely lining up for the next Boyne title!

Thanks to the Penguin First to Read program for my ARC.

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