All That I Am

( 18 )

Overview

All That I Am is a masterful and exhilarating exploration of bravery and betrayal, of the risks and sacrifices some people make for their beliefs, and of heroism hidden in the most unexpected places.

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 ...

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All That I Am

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Overview

All That I Am is a masterful and exhilarating exploration of bravery and betrayal, of the risks and sacrifices some people make for their beliefs, and of heroism hidden in the most unexpected places.

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.

Winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Funder follows the success of Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall with a debut novel “reconstructed from fossil fragments, much as you might draw skin and feathers over an assembly of dinosaur bones, to fully see the beast.” Ruth Becker glimpses that beast outside her Berlin apartment in 1933, as her showy journalist husband, Hans, makes mojitos on the day that Hitler is appointed chancellor of Germany. The heart of the novel, however, belongs to Ruth’s cousin Dora Fabian, leftist agitator, doomed idealist, and soul mate of playwright Ernst Toller. Ruth helps Dora hide Ernst’s writings as the Reichstag burns, and she flees with Hans the next day after being questioned about her Communist affiliations. Outside Germany, she works tirelessly for the cause, bringing Nazi preparations for war to the attention of the British. But her relationship with Hans, whose secret activities endanger everyone, crumbles. As the Holocaust begins, Ernst, in New York, relates Dora’s role in his life to a typist whose document reaches Ruth in Australia almost 60 years later. By alternating between Ernst and Ruth, Funder leaps through time with alacrity. She adds an integral perspective on a shopworn subject by invoking the lives of Nazi dissidents whose attempts to alert the world to the growing menace were ignored until it was too late. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (Feb.)
the Oprah Magazine O
“[An] enthralling historical novel.”
New York Times Book Review
“Funder writes with grace and conviction about the intrusion of the political on the domestic and the thrill of falling in love over a cause.”
Colum McCann
“History, like hope, is not something to be solved, but to be carried. Anna Funder has written an essential novel about how we carry the bricks of history on our backs…”
Daily Telegraph (London)
“A bravura piece of storytelling-perfectly plotted, exactingly described…Funder has taken the raw material of truth and from it created a novel of real power and beauty.”
The Times (London)
“The strengths of Funder’s writing are emotional and imaginative. In what she has to say about love, loss and betrayal there is profound truth.”
Times Literary Supplement (London)
“A strong and impressively humane novel…the subtlety of Anna Funder’s novel is in the elegance of her precise prose, and in her paintstaking portrait of an ordinary woman swept up in extraordinary events…”
The Spectator
“A brilliant narrative…Every part beautifully rendered and balanced…it works as a gripping spy novel…Funder’s prose raises the book to a different level…This book is a wonder.”
The Independent on Sunday
“A seamless and powerful tale…Funder has successfully transformed the material into a narrative of individual endeavor and survival, which examines universal themes.”
Wall Street Journal
“Imaginative, compassionate and convincing…In her first novel, Funder combines her proven gift for re-creating the past with the fiction writer’s license to reveal emotional truth through artifice.”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“[An] enthralling historical novel.”
Ann Patchett
“In ALL THAT I AM, Anna Funder delivers a sweeping first novel that covers love and war, friendship and betrayal, and the bonds that define a life. It is a moving and ambitious work.”
Betsey Burton
“Like Hillary Mantel’s brilliant WOLF HALL, Funder’s new book is not just a novel or thriller, and is also far more than mere history.”
Rachel Cusk
“A remarkable story told with clarity and precision, along with moments of insight and literary grace.”
Time Magazines Literary Supplement (London)
"A strong and impressively humane novel…the subtlety of Anna Funder’s novel is in the elegance of her precise prose, and in her paintstaking portrait of an ordinary woman swept up in extraordinary events…"
The Independenton Sunday
"A seamless and powerful tale…Funder has successfully transformed the material into a narrative of individual endeavor and survival, which examines universal themes."
Library Journal
Dora is a passionately political woman. She is the thread that holds together her cousin Ruth, journalist Hans Wesseman, and Ernst Toller, a fellow activist and Dora's lover. The quartet flee Germany in the wake of Hitler's rise to power, but they refuse to be silent about the Nazi threat. Shifting back and forth in time through the framing device of Toller's autobiography, this debut novel by the author of Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall is a spiraling account of political activity and love during World War II. The social aspect of the politics, rather than the war, is the author's main focus in following Dora as she pulls Ruth and Toller along with her. VERDICT Inspired by the life of German Jewish activist Ruth Koplowitz, this beautiful tapestry of friendship and loyalty during one of history's darker times will appeal to fans of novels about World War II as well as those who enjoy biographies of figures from that period. [See Prepub Alert, 8/21/11; the author got to know Koplowitz in her later years after she immigrated to Australia.—Ed.]—April Steenburgh, George F. Johnson Memorial Lib., Endwell, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Funder follows her critically acclaimed nonfiction debut (Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, 2003) with the novelized account of German activists who opposed Hitler before World War II. The author uses an unnecessary framing device, having two of the dissidents tell their sometimes-overlapping versions of events. In 2001 Australia, as her short-term memory fails along with her health, Ruth Becker remembers back 70 years to her early adulthood in Germany and England. In 1939 Manhattan, Ernst Toller, a world-renowned playwright and human-rights activist, holes up at the Mayflower Hotel where he dictates to his secretary the events that happened six years earlier. Both narrators are historical figures, as are almost all the "characters" in the book, despite a few name changes. Ruth and Ernst's paths cross in the 1920s. Toller, a decorated soldier during World War I, has been imprisoned for his pacifist activism. Among the pacifists and socialists working to gain his release is Ruth's older cousin Dora. While visiting Dora, 18-year-old Ruth falls deeply in love with journalist Hans Wesemann, whose courageous satirical articles make vicious fun of Hitler and his cronies. Ruth and Hans marry. When Toller leaves prison, where he has managed to write his well-loved plays, Dora becomes his secretary and passionate lover. Toller, scarred by his wartime and prison experience, suffers bouts of serious depression. He wants to marry Dora, but she is a committed feminist who refuses to be tied down. Life as an anti-fascist in late 1920s and early '30s Berlin is a heady mix of idealism, passion and drinking. Then the burning of the Reichstag occurs. Dora is arrested briefly, but it is Ernst the authorities want. Soon Ruth and Hans find themselves in London with Dora, Ernst and numerous other Germans trying to raise the alarm about Hitler. Some find adapting to expatriation harder than others, and one becomes a traitor to the cause. The disquieting historical facts entwined by themes of love and betrayal are powerful enough to make up for flat-footed storytelling.
John Williams
…Funder writes with grace and conviction about the intrusion of the political on the domestic and the thrill of falling in love over a cause.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062077561
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/7/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,468,208
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Funder's international bestseller, Stasiland, won the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction. Her debut novel, All That I Am, has won many prizes, including the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award. Anna Funder lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Well Written But Slow

    I reviewed this book for the blog Luxury Reading.

    All That I Am is the story of the leftist resistance in Germany and the influences and consequences of its compatriots beginning in the 1920s and reaching into the early 21st century. The story is told from the perspective of two German resisters, one a highly respected activist – Ernst Toller – and the other a smaller yet observant member – Ruth Becker. While they both mostly bypass each other in this complicated maze of activists there is one person they both cherish above all others: Dora Fabien, a freedom loving key member of the resistance.

    Toller’s story takes place in 1939 with him in exile in New York City, making corrections to his autobiography that he and Dora began before they were forced to flee Germany in 1933. Toller feels a desperate need to resurrect Dora, this great love of his life, and to tell her story so she is not forgotten to history as so many of the brave men and women working to bring the truth of Nazi Germany to the rest of the world have been. He feels he failed her during her life and must finally tell the whole truth as they saw it before the darkness that plagues him takes him under for good. As he goes back in time so do we.

    Ruth is in Sydney, Australia in 2001, finding that, in her old age, she is less able to control the memories that surface unbidden. When she receives the original corrected autobiography of Toller, which had been hidden away and only recently discovered with her name on it, her past comes screaming into focus and often seems more real than the reality surrounding her. She not only remembers living and working with her strong, enigmatic cousin Dora but remembers the highs and lows of doing what they felt was right at whatever costs it brought. We see the high times of prosperity and purpose before they left Germany in 1933, Ruth’s marriage to the dashing and charismatic journalist Hans Wesemann, the hardships of exile in London and the deep need to continue their work under the continual and increasing threats by the Reich.

    As the consequences of their work get deadlier, a devastating betrayal at the center of their group – one that Ruth is crushed that she didn’t see – brings the downfall and even death of many within the group. When Ruth escapes to live out her life without those that have supported and loved her, she highlights the life without roots of a continued exile. Her life goes on even as a part of her is always missing.

    While the writing is beautiful, there are portions of All That I Am that are slow going, especially the portion dealing with the exiled resistance workers in London in the 1930s. Without having a strong background in the various leftist political parties of the time it can be kind of confusing to keep the various differences and beliefs in line with the story being told.

    What I did enjoy was the character development of Toller, Ruth, Dora, Hans and a few secondary characters and the fact that most of them were actual people in history. For anyone who has a good understanding or love of German history and the political resistances that consumed the time period, this book is ideal. It is also worth a read for general lovers of history with a warning that the story does drag at times.

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2013

    Got up to 58% and then realised if I wasn't pulled in by now it'

    Got up to 58% and then realised if I wasn't pulled in by now it'd never happen. This novel was well researched, well written, had a great feel but ultimately slow and nothing grabbed me by the throat and kept me going.

    Sad I couldn't finish. I really, really did want to.

    If I was obsessed by WWII, Nazis, and Jews might have been obsessed but this novel but it wasn't for me. Maybe it's for you instead.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2013

    ?

    Plot spoiler ruined it. Please stop telling everthing about what happens. Give others a chance to read it for ourselves. Just because you were given it for free is no reason to reveal every detail to others. That is rude.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    Great book

    I wasn't sure what to expect when i first started reading this book, but I am so glad I read it. It is extremely well written and researched. The historical details added depth that cannot be acheived in any other way. It did take me a chapter or two to totally get into it, but i am glad i hung in there. If you are looking for a book that is a light, cheery read, this definitely isn't the book for you. It is heavy and depressing at times, but so was the reality of the time period this book is set in. I became attached to the characters and found myself feeling the sorrow, pain, and occassional happiness as they must have. I highly reccommend this book for anyone interested in an historically-based Nazi Germany story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013

    Moving story, beautifully written

    I started reading this book unsure of what to expect. I found myself completely pulled in to the story and blown away by the author's beautiful prose and ability to create believable and relatable characters. This book is set mostly in pre WWII times and deals with real life people who tried to stop Hitler from coming into power. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    Tragic tale

    I had a hard time getting into this story at first, once I did the characters really grabbed me.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    All That I Am by Anna Fun­der is an award win­ning novel by this

    All That I Am by Anna Fun­der is an award win­ning novel by this Aus­tralian author. The book won the pres­ti­gious Miles Franklin Lit­er­ary Award, Australia’s most pres­ti­gious lit­er­ary award.

    Jew­ish play­wright Ernst Toller, his lover Dora and their friend Ruth sud­denly become crim­i­nals when Hitler comes to power. The friends try to warn the world of the Nazis, only to find that many of those in power do not believe them and that they are not safe even in England.

    All That I Am by Anna Fun­der is a very good book, well writ­ten and inter­est­ing. That being said, it took me a while to get into it and, for me, a bit con­fus­ing and distracting.

    How­ever, this is a pro­found book which I found that I liked a lot more after I fin­ished. The story slaps the reader in the face, mak­ing them come to terms with the human con­di­tion of the past. The polit­i­cal tur­moil described in the book is merely a back­drop to the peo­ple who are caught up in it, scream­ing and warn­ing with no one to hear except the astute reader who knows how events will even­tu­ally unfold.

    Ernst TollerThe story is that of play­wright Ernst Toller, his lover Dora and their friend Ruth, try­ing to flee their own coun­try while being caught up in a per­sonal strug­gle which tests their polit­i­cal beliefs. An inter­est­ing aspect of the book was the espi­onage story which is told from the view­point of those being spied upon. The feel­ings of claus­tro­pho­bia, mis­trust and para­noia are all over the book.

    My biggest com­plaint about the book would be a silly one but still…here it goes.
    The cover for this edi­tion sucks. I don’t nor­mally say that, but this is a very good book and the cover totally mis­rep­re­sents what’s inside. It is not a love story which is what the cover implies. Frankly, if I was in a book store I wouldn't even have picked this book off the shelf. I know you're not sup­posed to judge a book by it's cover, but we all know that's bull.

    Even though I had to get used to skip­ping from one era to the other, from loca­tion to another, and back again the book is worth read­ing and inter­est­ing. The per­son­al­i­ties involved are unique and sad, but the tale is full of decep­tion, emo­tions and will give you a lot of fod­der to think about.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2013

    Thoughtful, well-written book.  The suspense unfolded at a good

    Thoughtful, well-written book.  The suspense unfolded at a good pace, unlike some books where it's put in your face on the first page.

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  • Posted March 23, 2013

    Ruth and Ernst Toller take turns telling the story of Dora, a po

    Ruth and Ernst Toller take turns telling the story of Dora, a political activist in the days before the start of WWII.  Ruth, her husband Hans, Dora, and Ernst have all escaped Germany and are living as refugees with the English.  There they plot to warn the world of Hitler's treatment of people and of his future plans.  Dora is Ruth's cousin and Ernst's love.  The story starts in the present and both Ruth and Ernst flashback to the tumultuous time when they fled Germany because of their political leanings and activity.  All That I Am is uncommon in that it doesn't focus on the plight of the Jews per se but rather focuses on the political climate and the hardships many faced once the regime slowly changed under Nazi control.  Well-written and poignant, many will love this well-researched read.




    All That I Am was not the read for me though it had so many powerful moments.  For me the switch between characters and time periods was just too confusing.  It created a disconnect to Ruth and Ernst's past selves.  I found myself most connected to present day Ruth and Ernst Toller despite the small amount of time spent during this period.  I'm glad that the point of view was displayed clearly at the start of each chapter.  But the transition to the past and back was often abrupt and disconcerting.  The two point of views were also jolting.   I also expected a little more romance and perhaps a lighter storyline within a tough historical period and topic.  There were few light moments and at times I felt that it read like nonfiction.  This wasn't the story I expected but I think I would get more out of this book by rereading it.  The details are thoughtful and meaningful.  I feel every sentence on the page had a point and was connected to another moment.  Unfortunately, I don't prefer to reread books.  Part III of the novel was riveting and I was completely captivated.  I wish Part I and Part II would have sped by a bit quicker.  For all the focus on Dora, I didn't connect with her much and didn't care as much about her as I should have.  Though, there were moments where my heart really went out to her.




    Ultimately, I think this is a great book for those who are looking for a well-researched , thoughtful perspective on the political turmoil during this time in history.  I recommend you slow down to this one in.  Many have said that they avoid WWII books because they can be sad and depressing.  This one is probably the saddest one I've read and I've read tons of WWII books.  Just a heads up there.  Though I have lukewarm feelings about this novel, the twist at the end makes me glad I read it.  I won't ever forget this one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 29, 2013

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