This novel won the Miles Franklin Award for 2012. As you can imagine, this makes it a popular book club choice. I enjoyed it and I shall try to get hold of Stasiland.
Here is the blurb …
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.
I found this book fascinating for a number of reasons. First, I know very little German history – I’m Australian the only European history we learn is about the ‘mother country’, i.e England. Reading about World War One and the lead up to World War Two from a German point of view was interesting (particularly because we know what Hitler does to the world). Secondly, I enjoyed the narrative style. It is written chapter about by two different narrators; Toller and Ruth. I must say I enjoyed Ruth’s chapters more, but I think that was simply a personal preference rather than anything inherent in the writing. Ruth is an elderly woman living in Bondi who is remembering (with greater clarity than she can remember current events) her life before the war. I think Ms Funder did a brilliant job of capturing Ruth’s life in Bondi with Bev the cleaning lady/home help. I could hear the tone that Bev would use when talking to Ruth.
This novel is full of suspense and yet we know Ruth survives and we know something happens to Dora (we presume death), but when it all comes to a climax it is still shocking. There are hints along the way and I think I would notice more with a second reading, but I don’t know if I would ever expect the depth of betrayal that occurs.
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