Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: All That I Am

All that I Am by Anna Funder
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII
Pages: 384 (paperback)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Author's Website |  Facebook
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Book Depo


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.

My Rating:

My Review:
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.

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  1. Doesn't sound right for me but I loved your review and like the cover.

  2. It does sound a little lukewarm but it also sounds like it had some pretty good things going for it. You so intrigued me about the end.

  3. Such a great review. I really admire you and your WWII books, because you always give them a good honest go. I hate that the POV changes and transitions from past to present didn't work for you. But it sounds like you were still able to get some enjoyment from the novel because of the ending. Too bad it wasn't everything you were expecting though.

    1. I did. I love WWII novels but that doesn't mean I enjoy every one that passes my path.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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