I have written about Yehuda Avner before, so I won´t prolong myself too much. He wrote a wonderful book prior to The Ambassador, The Prime Ministers, which is a masterpiece, a truly inspiring and page turning account of real events. One of my favorite books of all time. That´s the reason I was extremely excited when The Ambassador came out. Although The Ambassador is a novel, I was eager to read something that resembled a historical novel, or a fictional story in which you feel the author´s been there and done that.
Unfortunately, and very unfortunately indeed, The Ambassador is lame. It hurts me to say that, since I was expecting great things from Yehuda Avner.
Let´s start from the beginning. The book imagines the creation of the State of Israel before WW II takes place. And it revolves around the ambassador of Israel in Germany during the first years of the war. The ambassador has to negotiate with the Nazis to grant Israeli visas to as much Jews as he possibly can, and in parallel, stop his co-worker´s plot to kill Hitler (otherwise the ambassador believes he won´t be able to grant visas anymore), and save his wife from the death camp.
The synthesis above sounds actually interesting. I thought so too when I first read it. The famous “what if” story that tells “what it could have been”. But the book is none of that. The book´s plot is very thin, almost nonexistent. If not for a few better chapters with bit more meat, the whole book would just be the Israeli ambassador talking to his own self about what he ought to do next. It´s boring. There is no real-politik or nitty gritty diplomacy going around. There is no real holocaust stories to make the novel more real and powerful. There is very little action regarding the plot to assassinate Hitler; most of it is just talk. And to get away from the book´s emptiness or boredom, Avner tries to make an impactful and strong ending, that it actually turn out to be far-fetched and completely out of sense: the ambassador is able to kidnap Eichmann, convince the Allies to bomb the concentration camps, and to topple everything, he goes, in person, to rescue his wife in the middle of a death camp dressed as a Nazi. Really???
I didn´t want to finish reading the book. It was that bad. I was falling asleep every time I opened it. However, since I do finish every book I start, I hope you take my advice and don´t start this one.
Yehuda Avner was a great personality. He worked backstage during the most important moments of the State of Israel, accompanying and advising prime ministers. I don´t want to take that away from him. He just didn´t strike it with The Ambassador.