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All That I Am by Anna Funder
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All That I Am (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Anna Funder

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5233819,336 (3.71)39
Member:ilovejfranzen
Title:All That I Am
Authors:Anna Funder
Info:Viking (2012), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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All That I Am by Anna Funder (2011)

Recently added byKaye03, RobinSheehy, C-WHY, Mainlyme, Juliana.Brina, private library, arena55
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"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 |
A complex story set in the years following the Nazis coming to power in Germany and the outbreak of WW11 that focuses on German political exiles in London. Funder brings a relatively unknown (at least to me) bit of history to life in a taut, but ultimately extremely bleak story involving betrayal of the highest order. There are no happy endings for any involved. ( )
  sianpr | Jun 11, 2014 |
I know this book has won an award and I was looking forward to reading it for a book club meeting but I was disappinted with it. The historical aspect of the book was interesting and needs to be told especially since it is a story built around real people. I did no know that there were people exiled from Germany working in England, trying to make people aware, unsuccessfully, of what was happening in Germany. I found the format that it was written in difficult to get used to, that the story is told by two characters Ruth and Toller and that in each of their sections the time period moves forward and back. I did not really become emotionally attached to the characters and found too that there were too many minor characters so that at times it was difficult to keep track of them. there was not a lot of detail about them. It was not a gripping read for me - in some ways I was just reading to get to the end. ( )
  kiwifortyniner | May 12, 2014 |
Il found this very interesting, moreso because it was historical fiction of peoples' lives trying to warn Europe regarding the events in Nazi Germany. I cared about many of the characters, although I did not find it easy to know them all. I also did not always know the exact time frame, but I do not feel that was important. Knowing the risks these people took made the novel worthwhile. ( )
  suesbooks | Apr 4, 2014 |
Ruth Becker, defiant and cantankerous, is an old lady in Sydney. She has made an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past. Another lifetime away, it's 1939 and the world is going to war. Ernst Toller sits in a New York hotel room settling up the account of his life. When Toller's story arrives on Ruth's doorstep their shared past slips under her defences, and she's right back there - in Nazi Germany - where they were tested, and in some cases found wanting, in the face of hatred, of art, of love, and of history.
  storyLines | Jan 5, 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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