All That I Am
- Penguin Putnam Inc
- Publication Date:
- 10 May 2012
- Historical Fiction
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'All that I am' is not your average holocaust book. Anna Funder carves out a little-covered niche in time - the period before the worst of the atrocities - as the setting for her excellently written and researched book. The book's main characters are left-wing intelligenzia fleeing from Germany in the face of increasing threats by the Reich. The story is their struggle to tell the outside world of Germany's slide into despotism, as well as the individual stories of resourcefulness and incredible bravery, bewilderment and displacement. I always find books based on real life events compelling and this book is no exception. Anna Funder is to be congratulated for vividly bringing these little known individuals and their heroic deeds to life and for contributing to the answer to that enduring question about the Holocaust and other such atrocities - 'How could these things happen?'
An amazing book outlining and embellishing real events in the period between the World Wars. I was staggered to find that the characters are based on real people and their resistance work during the rise of Hitler to power.
It is sometimes difficult to separate a book from the hype surrounding it, and this is particularly true since <i>All That I Am</i> won the Miles Franklin Award. When it comes down to brass tacks, this is not an especially insightful look at life for refugees of the Holocaust, but it is still an interesting and worthwhile read. The novel alternates between two narrators - young activist Ruth and famed writer Ernst Toller - as they navigate (somewhat disjointedly) through several different time periods. Perhaps because Ruth is based on a real-life friend of the author, she feels more rounded and authentic than Toller, whose life is drawn from secondary sources only. I found myself looking forward to Ruth's next chapter, sometimes wishing Funder had stuck with a single protagonist. <i>All That I Am</i> has its flaws, but the betrayal Ruth experiences at the hands of a trusted ally is truly devastating.
All That I Am displays great respect for people acting in heroic ways during wartime. Set in the 1920s and 1930s, we follow Ruth, Dora, Hans and Toller living in Germany. They work as part of the underground against the Third Reich. They are expelled outside of the Reich’s borders and wind up in London as refugees.Ms. Funder helps us understand the premise of her book through the voice of two minor characters. “All that we are not stares back at all that we are.” P. 96“ We must believe in God…because if we don’t we will have to believe in man, and then we will only be disappointed.” P. 237 We learn, however that some of the main characters exceed expectations and act courageously and with little fear for their own fates in order to inform England of Hitler’s threat.The premise is extraordinary, and is based on true events. I found the book disjointed. The point of view and time periods switch often. This complicates the reading, despite the fact that chapter headings reveal the character speaking. The outcome grabs you by the collar, but the “getting there” is a bit of a maze. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
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