Friday, January 08, 2021

Book Review: "The Radio Operator" by Ulla Lenze


This historical novel centers on Josef Klein, a character based on a relative of the author. He came from Germany to settle in New York before World War II. He worked for a printer that did work for local Nazis, among others. His interest in radio came to their attention, and he found himself dragged into doing work for them.

The book follows Josef from his early years in New York through the war years and into his post-war life, including some romantic entanglement that doesn't really possess any passion in the pages of the book. Josef doesn't come across as the most sympathetic character. He's not necessarily someone to be disliked. Rather, he elicits a sort of emotional shrug. 

Even when it comes to the premise of his being a radio operator, a sphere that would have given another author fodder for discussions with far-flung locations during a tumultuous time in history, and allowed her to paint all sorts of interesting scenes, there was nothing there. The author referenced a few conversations with other radio operators in far off lands, but that was it. That part of the story, or a real feel for Josef's love of the radio, wasn't developed.

I don't think the author has the writing power to really develop characters so you care about them. It feels more like she just expects us to care, perhaps because this is based on someone who was a member of her family, so she and her family cared. It just didn't get there for me.  Not a bad book, but definitely not a page-turner, either.

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