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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jewish comrades who screamed the alarm that the world failed to heed
Historical, face-slapping consciousness, profound characterization. Forces readers to terms with human failure of the past. `All That I Am' is Anna Funder's first novel, not her first good book. Here Funder offers an intellectual novel-literary journey depicting a Jewish woman and man caught up in personal and political opposition to their country's (Germany) direction...
Published on December 8, 2011 by Harold Wolf

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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but a bit turgid
Only three stars for a novel on this subject from a deservedly highly-respected author will probably be regarded by many people as tantamount to sacrilege, but the truth is that this book failed to engage me fully either in its story or its characters.

The novel is based on the true story of real people who opposed the Nazis rise to power and then, at immense...
Published on January 12, 2012 by Sid Nuncius


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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jewish comrades who screamed the alarm that the world failed to heed, December 8, 2011
By 
Harold Wolf "Doc" (Wells, IN United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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Historical, face-slapping consciousness, profound characterization. Forces readers to terms with human failure of the past. `All That I Am' is Anna Funder's first novel, not her first good book. Here Funder offers an intellectual novel-literary journey depicting a Jewish woman and man caught up in personal and political opposition to their country's (Germany) direction. They reflect from two different era's she in 2001, he in the 1930's, through memory leaps to a past activist camaraderie. Readers are strained looking through the psyche of Ruth and Toller, feeling momentary joys, pains, fears as experienced in the fray. Ruth & Toller permit your glimpse of Dora the delectable, the indescribable, the tough, the mystifying. There was a magnitude of need inside them to disclose foreseen holocaust, yet a bald united humanness of living life lustfully.

Not romantic, but there are affairs; not a pretty 20th century picture of war, Nazi politics, and this coterie's struggle to warn Europe. Expect to FEEL loss, sacrifice, struggle; expect to judge; expect an inglorious sweetless end. It's not light reading, not cozy heart-warming. It's bitter struggle, life lived on the edge, loss, exile, and honest failures enough to show it is more nonfiction than fiction.

It's a much preferred novel structure for this historical material over the textbook-history nonfiction alternative. See the dark side of nationality/religious politics -sometimes as disturbing as today's front page news.

Bottom line: It takes a few pages to get used to the skipping from one era to another, one location and then back, and the personalities, but it's worth the preliminary perplexity to get into this riveting read. The book needs a cosmopolitan reader--one keen on other nationalities and a mingler of diverse sects, faiths, and personalities. They will enjoy & relate. A finale is full of intrigue, voracious emotion, and a whole domino-series of surprise conclusions.
Thanks Anna Funder, expect another award.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Some saw it, though, for what it was: the consolidation of a killer's state.", December 9, 2011
This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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Do you ever think back and remember what you were doing when you heard about the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001? Or when you heard John Lennon was assassinated? Or Bobby Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, President John F. Kennedy? Or maybe you can go back farther still and recall how you felt when you heard about Kent State? And even farther, about Pearl Harbor? We often do this-attempt to parallel our personal memories with history-and that is how Anna Funder's powerful debut novel, All That I Am: A Novel, opens. No, I think I would rather say that that is how Anna Funder allows history to explode, to burst open...like an embolism in the brain.

The novel opens-"When Hitler came to power I was in the bath." This is the memory of Dr Ruth Becker Wesemann, a very old woman in Sydney, Australia, diagnosed with plaguing of the brain which causes not only her short-term memory loss but also more vivid long-term recollections. "I feel sane enough-young enough-to experience loss as loss. Then again, nothing and no one has been able to kill me yet."

It is the year 2001 and Ruth unexpectedly receives a package from Columbia University in New York. It contains documents from 1939 belonging to a Mr Ernst Toller as well as a first edition of Mr Toller's autobiography, I WAS A GERMAN, with a handwritten note 'For Ruth Wesermann.' The book will enable Ruth to go back in time, back to the early 1930's and her beloved homeland of Germany. As Ruth is stirred by the contents of Toller's book, she reminds us about the power of memory in our battle with our minds, a battle against forgetting our past, forgetting history.

All That I Am: A Novel is about a little known chapter of German history. Questions often arise as to why the German people did not rise to stop Hitler, to halt his machine in its beginnings; or why the rest of the world paid no heed to the urgent warnings of the intellectuals and political activists of the time; or why Hitler and Nazism would not be defeated; or why evil was triumphant over good-allowing millions of people to be murdered, executed, exterminated? This beautifully written, evocative novel attempts to answer these questions and provide a rare insight into the hearts and minds of brave men and women who in the early 1930's dared to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime, and who worked tirelessly to bring him down and terminate the Third Reich.

All That I Am: A Novel is an extraordinary and unnerving work of historical fiction based on very real people, in very real events, during a terrifyingly foreboding era between the horrific World Wars of Twentieth Century Europe.

Written with deceptively simple prose, All That I Am: A Novel is rich with subtext. With characters of remarkable depth and extraordinary intelligence, most of whose names are genuine, Funder's stunning narrative arc takes a story line grounded in actual history and makes it soar with exhilarating passion. All That I Am: A Novel is a novel about the finest aspects of humanity when humanity is challenged by the terrors of greatest evil.

Funder has "reconstructed" this story from pieces of real evidence left behind in the wreckage of history, pieces of a very true story belonging to her personal friend, Ruth, to whom this novel is dedicated. Ruth and a tightly knit group of courageous and heroic friends fled into exile from Germany in 1933 on a bold and dangerous mission to alert their fellow Germans as well as the world to the dangers of Adolf Hitler and the rising Third Reich. Funder unearthed this dramatic story "from fossil fragments, much as you might draw skin and feathers over an assembly of dinosaur bones, to fully see the beast. These are the bones I found."

The story line of All That I Am: A Novel drives forward slowly and deliberately, told from two alternating perspectives, that of Ruth in 2001 and that of the poet and revolutionary Ernst Toller in 1939. With frequent use of the flashback technique, the story unfolds and reads like a suspense thriller.

The narrative progresses sequentially but in a non-linear manner to provide a vividly detailed exploration of the triangulated relationship between Ruth, Toller and Ruth's fearlessly heroic cousin, Dr Dora Fabian. Ruth and Toller are the two for whom Dora was the sun. They move in her orbit and it was the force of Dora that kept them solid, kept them going, kept them fighting. Dora is the very heart and the soul of the militant leftist party to which the three are so dedicated.

And if Ruth, Dora and Toller are three, they are each also points on a 5 pointed star which includes Ruth's husband, Hans Wesermann, and Hans's best friend, Berthold Jacob. Together with a cell of other dedicated leftist political exiles, they are a daring unit of defiant young Germans who mount a fierce campaign at the risk of their own lives to not only resist and stop Hitler and his Nazi machine, but to alert their fellow countrymen as well as the entire world to the dangers of the horrific madman and his totalitarian regime... of its insipid oppression, of its unfathomable brutality and of its unbelievable savagery against not only European Jews, but other German people and the conquered populations of the Reich's European conquests.

"...'How can we allow this pudgy, cake-scoffing homosexual, this flatulent nail biter, to represent Germany? But seriously, they say that the Leader is a teetotaler, a bachelor, a non-smoking vegetarian, as if he were a man removed from our normal, base desires, uninterested in satisfying himself. Concerned only with the wellbeing of the German nation. But we say he fulfils his bloodlust in other ways. You do not have to have read Dr Freud to know that desire denied does not go away of its own accord. It wraps and moves like a river denied its course, it flows on to drown other things. And, in the case of Adolf Hitler, those things are us.'..." So spoke the voice of one of the young German resistors who manages to broadcast from exile in Czechoslovakia his courageous anti-Hitler messages into the heart Germany.

And this is the spirit that kept me riveted to this novel, that moved me to tears, or took my breath away with its passion, its intrigue, its suspense, its action, and above all, its inspiration. This is historical fiction at its finest and I applaud Anna Funder for a most exhilarating reading experience.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but a bit turgid, January 12, 2012
This review is from: All That I Am (Hardcover)
Only three stars for a novel on this subject from a deservedly highly-respected author will probably be regarded by many people as tantamount to sacrilege, but the truth is that this book failed to engage me fully either in its story or its characters.

The novel is based on the true story of real people who opposed the Nazis rise to power and then, at immense personal risk both in Germany and in exile, tried to alert the world to the evil the Nazis represented. It is an important and inspirational story which I ought to have found gripping and moving, but I'm afraid it was neither for me. I find it hard to put my finger on why - it is well researched, Anna Funder writes good, clean prose and the story itself is of very direct personal relevance to me. Somehow, though, it felt rather turgid and worthy. I also found the fractured timescale annoying; it's not so much confusing as very distracting and it felt like an unnecessary trick which kept preventing me from really engaging with the story.

I can see why plenty of other reviewers here have thought this a very good book, and I wouldn't want to put anyone off trying it, but for me it was quite a struggle to get through and ultimately rather disappointing.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Better as non-fiction?.., November 29, 2011
This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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Anna Funder's debut novel, "All That I Am" was a difficult book to review. A good novel should have either a strong plot or strong characters. Funder's novel has neither. I wasn't invested in either plot or characters until the end of the book, where the plot picked up and the characters became clearer.

Told by two voices, "Ruth" and "Toller", the book is set in many places and time periods. London in 1933, Germany during and after WW1, Sydney in the recent past, and New York City in 1939 are a few of the settings. There were four main characters, Dora and her cousin Ruth, and Ernst Toller and Hans Wesemann, both WW1 veterans, writers, and, along with the women, members of an organisation of left-leaning German refugees determined to get the word out about what was happening in Nazi Germany. However, as danger of Nazi reprisals grow, allegiances are torn apart. Betrayals abound but Funder actually ties things up nicely in the end.

After finishing the book, I read the afterword where Funder tells the reader that the story is based on actual historic figures and their work. And here's where I think Anna Funder may have made a mistake in her writing. The story of Dora Fabian, Ruth Blatt, Ernst Toller, Hans Wesemann would have made excellent, straight-forward telling as a work of non-fiction. As fiction, Funder has to invent and imagine scenes and personalities, and I didn't feel her writing was as strong as it should be. The end of the book was stronger because she was working with solid fact.

It's presumptuous and rather rude for an amateur reviewer to take an author to task. I don't like writing a review like that, but I did finish Funder's novel wanting to know more about the characters' actual lives. A quick trip to Wiki gave me some answers about some of the characters - including a translated page from "Wiki-Poland" about Wesemann. I wish Anna Funder had written a non-fiction portrait of these very real people. I think it would have been better written and more interesting.

I'll be anxious to see what other reviewers write about "All That I Am". I bet some will really like it. I just wish I liked it more.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of my favorites, January 21, 2012
This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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I was looking forward to reading this novel based on it subject matter, the reviews that others have posted, and the respect that the author has gained both personally and professionally. I was surprised, however, once I started reading it. I just didn't live up to my expectations.

I was greeted with a book that seemed to wrestle with its own subject matter. The prose was unnecessarially plodding, cumbersome, and the plot moved very slowly. The history lesson was great, but I honestly felt as if I was reading a textbook. It was a chore. The novel is told in two viewpoints, but the author does not make it clear when we are switching those points, and at what point in time we are jumping to. Overall, the book just felt borish and too much effort was required to enjoy it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthy tale., January 16, 2012
By 
nevina "nevina" (CT, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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All That I Am tells the mostly true story of three Germans who opposed Hitler and the nazi party's rise to power in the 1930's, and what that opposition cost them.
I was sure I was going to like this book, its set in a period of history which usually interests me and it is a well written, worthy tale. While I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from reading it, like most other well written worthies I've read, it left me cold.
The non linear timeline had an incoherent feel to me, there was no strand to grab on to and follow and get immersed in.
I kept hoping that Ruth's musings on her experiences of old age had some relevance to the main plot but no. When her story did pick up a bit I was too disconnected from the plot to care.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not easy to get into it, March 21, 2012
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I just could not get into this book. I love this time period and the history, but the writing was disjointed and very difficult to follow. It was also very slow. I will probably give it another try later, because of the subject matter.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding and affecting, December 6, 2011
This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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I hardly know how to begin to convey how startlingly engrossing this book is. The story itself is unlike any other I've read about Germany during the rise of Hitler. It comes alive with mounting terror and the selflessness of those who were intent on alerting an unsuspecting world that was blind to Hitler's madness.

Ruth Becker is just a girl when she witnesses the unique courage and drive that her cousin Dora possesses, courage that Ruth soon finds she also has. Based on actual events, it proves the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. I sat on the edge of my seat, heart breaking, as I read. The prose is beautifully evocative and paints the era in such vivd detail that I felt as if I'd been there. The characters are so real -- the selfless and the villians -- that my breath caught in my throat. With each new twist in the story, I fell more in thrall to this author and her compelling tale.

Be sure to read the Sources section as the author lists the non-fiction works that inspired her.

Truly astounding!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Really Wanted To Like It, January 2, 2012
This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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I received this book with some anticipation having great interest in Germany between the Weimar Republic and September 1, 1939. How did a great nation like Germany succumb to the trappings of a man like Hitler and especially how those who opposed the Nazi movement reacted, retreated, and thankfully never gave up.

This books is wordy, and somewhat confusing as narrators leap back and forth in time whereas the main protagonist Toller is shown in a light that is most unkind as well as the self serving Dora and the awestruck Ruth. The novel is based on real life events and people of that era. The author does a fine job describing the "feel" of the times, but the pacing of the novel did not allow me to join her characters as it took me a few weeks of going back and forth and reading several books in between this one.

It is slow and tedious reading and if you do a little research on the net you will find that the truth that lies within these characters is more fascinating than the novel you are about to read. I would recommend Alan Furst if this period of history interest you off the top of my head. My only hope is that the edition I read was an advanced copy and perhaps with a strong editor the pace of the novel can keep up with the events that the author describes. 2 1/2 stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All That Was with an Historical Perspective, January 13, 2012
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This review is from: All That I Am (Paperback)
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All That I Am is a solidly written story about four people who were part of the early resistance movement against Nazi Germany and Hitler's reign. The story focuses much on Dora, though told through her cousin Ruth and her lover Toller. Germany in the 1930's was rife with danger for anyone who opposed the Reich and Hitler. Dora was one of those people who openly spoke out against the regime and wanted Germany to be free for all people.

While the book hits on an important part of history, the lead up to WWII, it falters in the telling at times. Based in fact, the author takes the lives of real people and attempts to reconstruct the past in a novel format. The failing comes in the fact Anna Funder plays a little too fast and too loose with the movement of time. Toller's relating the story of his love, Dora, from 1939 and Ruth is looking way back in time from 2001 and relating what she remembers of her cousin from memories that are resurfacing. The discrepancies in the time makes the threads a little tricky to place and difficult to keep track of who is where and when, particularly when Ruth is narrating parts of her own story and mixing them with that of Dora.

But the final product is still intriguing in that it provides a view into the resistance movement that took place in pre WWII Germany. It is a well paced book that gives more than an ample picture into the lives of some of the important people working behind the scenes and adds something to an already rich part of historical writing. I would have liked a little more clarity in the time spacing personally and the story to move a little faster at the beginning, but overall the writing was readable and the characters compelling if not a bit type-cast.
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All That I Am: A Novel
All That I Am: A Novel by Anna Funder (Paperback - January 22, 2013)
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