Ladder to the Sky (Boyne) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for A LADDER TO THE SKY ... then take off on your own:

1. What do you think of Maurice—how would you describe him? What is his underlying motivation, the force (or is it a need) that drives him? Have you ever met anyone with Maurice's qualities?

2. John Boyne cleverly hides the intentions behind Maurice's questioning of Erich about his years under the Nazis. At what point did you begin to suspect Maurice's duplicity?

3. Once he realizes what Maurice has done to him, Erich says, "I had, quite literally, been the author of my own misfortune." Do you think he's right? Is Erich, ultimately, the one responsible?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: Maurice maintains that he is not exploiting anyone; he believes that everyone gets what they want. What do you think: is Maurice's assessment clear-eyed, cynical, the mark of a realist … or a sociopath?

5. Gore Vidal is impervious to Maurice's charms; in fact, he sees through Maurice, realizing he's playing a game. What does Vidal see in Maurice that others do not?

6. Vidal, considers his visiting author friend "a hack with a modicum of talent." What do you make of his observation that the writer took care "never to offend the middle-aged ladies and closeted homosexuals who made up the bulk of his readership. His books were efficiently written but so painfully innocuous that even President Reagan had taken one on holiday"? Ouch! In fact, so many ouches in those two sentences. Care to critique them?

7. Boyne takes satirical aim at the literary world. What and/or whom specifically does he satirize—what is he attempting to reveal to his readers?

8. How would you describe Edith Camberley? What about the couple's marriage? In what way does Edith's own success affect Maurice? Edith has seen her husband close-up, yet she seems blind to his cruelty. What is it about her that makes her so malleable under his control?

9. Follow-up to Question 8: The author is masterful in building up a sense of menace within the marriage. How did you react to Maurice's plotting? Would "terrified" be a good word?

10. As you read A Ladder to the Sky, did you find yourself liking Maurice—almost against your will? If so, why?

11. Were you ready for the novel's twist? Were you surprised or did you see it coming (maybe a little of both)?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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