Title: Wooden King
Author: Thomas McConnell
About the Author: McConnell is a professor of English at the University of South Carolina Upstate. After having received his education at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, he became a Fullbright Scholar in the Czech-Republic for 2005-2006 and taught American literature and creative writing at Masaryk University.
Other Books by This Author: A Picture Book of Hell and Other Landscapes
Medium: Historical Fiction
No. of Pages: 313
Original Publishing Year: 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Rating: 17+
Positive Review: This book was my first blind book date, so the story was something new for me. I often find myself predicting events in books, as I'm sure many readers do by using the information the author provides, but McConnell left me unsuspecting of the plot, which kept me interested. There was a lot of descriptive imagery, which added to the setting (love that imagery, especially visual). McConnell also included many metaphors, enhancing the story and my understanding of the characters and setting depictions. I really enjoyed the conflict towards the end. It was engaging, suspenseful, and realistic (without fantastical elements). I appreciated the conflict's length, as it was longer than other events that previously occurred in the novel, those lasting seemingly just one page.
Negative Review: There was quite a bit of dialogue, a profuse amount, and I often found myself lost trying to figure out who was speaking. The conversations did not flow and seemed restricted. I had difficulty following the story, and I still do not quite understand the plot, for there were numerous events that left me questioning their purpose and how they contributed to the book as a whole. These occurrences were not engaging. The tension did not buildup. The events just happened and then the story moved on. The plot jumped ahead and did not provide information as to what happened during the missing time, although perhaps the missing time was deemed unimportant to the story. These gaps had me wondering, "What happened?" The story didn't flow smoothly. I also struggled to find a structure in the novel. I'm a simple woman. I like rising action and a climax followed by falling action and a resolution. I could not tell what event was the climax, if there was one, although, if I had to guess, it would be a moment towards the end. I also couldn't find a clear resolution and I am left wondering if the story was resolved. I didn't discern any character development with the protagonist, but perhaps it was too subtle for me to pick up, or I was focusing on other things to notice properly. Regarding the diction, it came off as restricted and repetitive at times, as though McConnell had a limited vocabulary. But maybe that was just his writing style.
Overall Review: I don't regret reading this book, but I didn't fully enjoy reading it either. McConnell has a good grasp of Czechoslavakia during WWII, but I felt the story was lacking in the area of creativity. I felt detached from the protagonist. I didn't find him relatable and I struggled to empathize with him. There was a lack of insight into his opinions and perceptions of the world around him. I just couldn't properly see the world through his eyes. I did appreciate the different points of view that the other characters provided, but their dialogue didn't flow naturally and came across as forced.
Summary: It is 1939, Czechoslovakia has been invaded by the Nazis. Viktor Trn is no longer professor of history at the university and must look to find money through other means. He is torn between staying true to his morals or accepting the job of teaching his oppressors' language. Friends disappear, neighbors are no longer trustworthy, and men are killed in the nearby school. The frontlines of the war draw closer and safety dwindles every night. As the storm that threatens Europe grows ever stronger each day, so does the conflict within him. Does he protect his family, or help save his fallen country?