Literary Fiction (View all)
The gripping first novel by Anna Funder, the acclaimed author of Stasiland, based on a true story. All That I Am, is moving and beautifully written, equal parts a love story, thriller and testament to individual heroism. It evokes books like Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, Bernard Schlink's The Reader and William Boyd's Restless - intelligent, powerful novels that appeal to a wide audience.
'When Hitler came to power I was in the bath. The wireless in the living room was turned up loud, but all that drifted down to me were waves of happy cheering, like a football match. It was Monday afternoon . . . '
Ruth Becker, defiant and cantankerous, is living out her days in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. She has made an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past – and a part of history that has been all but forgotten.
Another lifetime away, it's 1939 and the world is going to war. Ernst Toller, self-doubting revolutionary and poet, 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 among them – those friends who predicted the brutality of the Nazis and gave everything they had to stop them. Those who were tested – and in some cases found wanting – in the face of hatred, of art, of love, and of history.
Based on real people and events, 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. Anna Funder confirms her place as one of our finest writers with this gripping, compassionate, inspiring first novel.
Many of you will have read Funder’s award winning Stasiland, which explored the machinations of the East German secret police in the former German Democratic Republic. This is the author’s first foray into the land of fiction, and believe me, it’s absolutely wonderful. Still securely based on real people and historic events, the novel is a sensitive and perceptive retelling of the lives of left-wing Jewish poet and playwright, Ernst Toller, the love of his life, revolutionary journalist Dora Fabian, and her cousin and devoted friend Ruth Wesemann. Along with Ruth’s journalist husband Hans, the four were the leaders of a group of intellectuals, dissenters and revolutionaries who were exiled soon after Hitler came to power, and who did their utmost, even though as refugees they were forbidden political activity of any kind, to alert the world to the danger he posed. The book is a breathtaking piece of storytelling, rich with incident and characters: it fills in most skillfully the development and rise of Nazism as a result of Germany’s humiliating losses after the First World War and provides a moving account of the heroic group of people who courageously risked their lives to speak out. Powerful and wise, All That I Am paints a searing portrait of the devastating consequences of thwarted ambition and loss of purpose. This is one of those marvellous books which make you long for the time when the tasks of the day are done and you are free to curl up somewhere warm and snug, to lose yourself once more within its pages.