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All That I Am by Anna Funder

All That I Am (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Anna Funder

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6424415,063 (3.72)45
Title:All That I Am
Authors:Anna Funder
Info:Viking (2012), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library

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All That I Am by Anna Funder (2011)


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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Amazing book with lots of history! Loved how this time period was told through the eyes of the resistance fighters who tried their hardest to stop Hitler even before the war. If only people and countries had listened instead of turning a deaf ear. ( )
  annabw | Feb 21, 2017 |
Beautifully written, and a story that needs to be told again and again, especially as we become complacent about our politicians ... We think that the situation in Germany prior to WW II will never be repeated, and much of the horror of it has been diluted over the years. This book is a terrific read and a timely reminder that we need people like Dora, Ruth, Toller and Bertie, and their network of supporters. And we should be wary of relying on those eloquent charmers with a questionable ethical compass. When the worst situations occur, we only have our humanity and our ethics to guide us through. ( )
  essjay1 | Jan 11, 2017 |
  johnrid11 | Feb 14, 2016 |
Powerful, gripping and real, in that the underlying story (with imagined flesh added to the bones) is true, the characters are real (historical) people and the character development is of extremely high quality. I knew nothing of the specific events and personalities Funder explores here and made one small mistake early on: I did an internet search for one of the people involved. Do try to avoid that if you can, as even a glance at search results will tell you things it would be good not to know until the narrative reveals them. There are, of course, things we cannot help but know in advance: how World War II proceeded and the fate of the main players, and there is a sense of doom that, as a result, pervades proceedings. Some find that depressing. I don't tend to shy away from painful aspects of history, in large because I see that as dangerous. If we forget, or rather wilfully ignore, distressing facts from the past, we will surely not recognise when they are imminent once again. In any case, we have one bit of (tempered) good news, as Ruth has lived to an impressive age in sunny Bondi. I loved her character and particularly enjoyed every return to "present day" Bondi, partly because it connected this story of two or three generations ago to now and to my home (by which I mean Australia in general and more specifically Bondi, which I have visited a few times and know reasonably well--had a lovely lunch on Bondi Rd a couple of months ago, although sadly no gugelupf!)

Edited to add:

From http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2011/11/history-in-the-service-of-fiction..., I found this interesting regarding what is true and what isn't:

We are dealing here with living memory. Indeed, one of the characters (Ruth Becker) is based on Funder’s friend Ruth Blatt, whose extraordinary trajectory brought her to Melbourne via a German prison and exile in Shanghai.

But in Funder’s novel Ruth is not transplanted to Melbourne, but to Sydney. And she appears on the page not as Ruth Blatt – her real name – but as Ruth Becker; perhaps Funder’s nod to the liberties she has taken in imagining her life. By Funder’s own account, Ruth never spoke about her relationship with either Toller or Fabian in Funder’s presence. Fabian and Blatt were not cousins – as the novel has it – but friends. These re-workings of historical fact into imagined fiction make sense when the work is approached as a novel – that is, a form with certain conventions. So, the shift from ‘real’ Melbourne to ‘imagined’ Sydney creates a contrast between the diamantine beauty of the harbour and the grey, dour London of the preceding chapters: precisely the light-and-shade contrast that fiction works with. Making Ruth and Dora cousins is a useful shorthand for their bond and sometimes conflicted loyalty.

Wise and considered readers and critics I know are recording these ‘shorthands’ as factual on their blogs and in their articles. When I asked Funder what she made of this tendency she said that ‘there are boundless inaccuracies out there. I provided notes in the novel both to honour sources, and to enable people to go and find out what is on the historical record if they are interested’. The credentials Funder established with Stasiland perhaps account for a good part of the expectation that Funder has stuck close to the historical record in all things. Funder told me that in All That I Am ‘I made up the plot. I made up the characters’ interior lives, interactions, gestures, relationships, involvements … That said, everything that happens in it might have happened, there is nothing important in a plot sense in it that is contradicted by the historical record as I came across it.’
( )
  Vivl | Mar 22, 2015 |
"Hans, who was shy speaking to the English, spoke of them as they fitted his preconceptions: a nation of shopkeepers, tea drinkers, lawn clippers. But I came to see them differently. What had seemed a conformist reticence revealed itself, after a time, to be an inbred, ineffable sense of fair play. They didn't need as many external rules as we did because they had internalised the standards of decency."

(from the blurb) When Hitler comes to power in 1933, a tight-knit group of friends and lovers become hunted outlaws overnight. United in their resistance to the madness and tyranny of Nazism, they must flee the country. Dora, passionate and fearless, her lover, the great playwright Ernst Toller, her younger cousin Ruth and Ruth's husband Hans find refuge in London. Here they take breathtaking risks in order to continue their work in secret. But England is not the safe haven they think it to be, and a single, chilling act of betrayal will tear them apart.

Often a book seems driven by one of three things to me - plot, characters, or beautiful writing. This seemed a half-and-half study of plot and characters. The plot moved at inconsistent speed (and jumped around - but more on that later), but while we stayed in one place and time, particularly in the early 30s in Germany and then in the mid 30s in London, it was well-crafted and progressed. A level of tension is well-maintained without being exhausting. I didn't see the plot twist coming at all. I was surprised when it came, who it was that was responsible, and the effects.

I already protested about the back-and-forth perspective, the way we flick from Ruth as an old woman, to Ruth as a young woman during the Nazi years, to Ernst Toller at the start of the war, and back again. I still maintain that Ernst's story served no purpose at all - it was necessary that some of the information about Dora came through him, but that was really it.

Young Ruth was my favourite character (I suspect this is Funder's intention); gentle and idealistic, committed and loving. I found Dora more difficult; headstrong, impetuous, strangely unconcerned with consequences. Ernst was sanctimonious and selfish, and Hans was strangely nothing. He was inspired and gregarious as a young man, but he petered out into nothingness in a new country. I loved old Ruth's observations on Bev (her carer) - a little comic relief in the other timeline.

This is such a depressing book. So naturally I read it on holiday in Rome in the sunshine. But still. I can't decide whether it needed heavier editing, redirecting, or whether I was never going to like something so dark.

One thing this book did teach me was the experience of living in 20s Germany. At school we only heard about the rampant inflation and needing a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy a loaf of bread; this book managed to convey the joy and freedom and idealism and optimism of the early 20s. No mean feat.

Not bad, and others will enjoy it more than I. But so, so depressing. ( )
  readingwithtea | Oct 19, 2014 |
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In memory of Ruth Blatt (née Koplowitz)
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When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
When eighteen-year-old Ruth Becker visits her cousin Dora in Munich in 1923, she meets the love of her life, the dashing young journalist Hans Wesemann, and eagerly joins in the heady activities of the militant political Left in Germany. Ten years later, Ruth and Hans are married and living in Weimar Berlin when Hitler is elected chancellor of Germany. Together with Dora and her lover, Ernst Toller, the celebrated poet and self-doubting revolutionary, the four become hunted outlaws overnight and are forced to flee to London. Inspired by the fearless Dora to breathtaking acts of courage, the friends risk betrayal and deceit as they dedicate themselves to a dangerous mission: to inform the British government of the very real Nazi threat to which it remains willfully blind. All That I Am is the heartbreaking story of these extraordinary people, who discover that Hitler’s reach extends much further than they had thought.

Gripping, compassionate, and inspiring, this remarkable debut novel reveals an uncommon depth of humanity and wisdom. Anna Funder has given us a searing and intimate portrait of courage and its price, of desire and ambition, and of the devastating consequences when they are thwarted.
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The story of two Jewish Germans -- Hans and Ruth Wesemann -- who resisted Hitler in the 1930s. Based on real events.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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