Australian author Anna Funder’s powerful 2003 book Stasiland was a fascinating look at the all pervasive surveillance by the Stasi in the former East Germany. Now with her first novel All That I Am, Funder is back in Germany and again dealing with ugly truths – albeit this time in a fictional work. Again the result is a thoroughly interesting, incredibly moving story that is beautifully told.
Based on real people and events, All That I Am moves between modern-day Sydney, New York with Europe on the brink of war and Germany as Adolf Hitler comes to power. It addresses themes such as growing old, heroism, honour and betrayal in a narrative that is part love-story, part spy-story and part memorial to forgotten heroes, all told from two different viewpoints. Ruth Becker is an elderly lady living in her adopted home of Sydney. She grew up in a Germany struggling after the defeat of World War I and was forced to flee the country once Hitler came to power because of her political affiliations. Ernst Toller is a revolutionary playwright and poet who is also forced to leave Nazi Germany. He writes his memoirs from a New York hotel room in 1939 and years later when they are sent to Ruth she must also confront her past – the people and events that influenced her life in pre-World War II Germany, when she and a committed group of friends predicted the brutality of the Nazis and tried to stop their rise to power and domination.
There are many novels that explore life in Nazi Germany but few that focus on the time before Hitler became Chancellor and the resistance to his power, which makes this gripping novel particularly interesting. The characters are beautifully crafted and you feel their passion and loss vividly. All That I Am is an extremely satisfying read.
Book review by Andi Lawson Moore @ Great Escape Books