Monday, 30 January 2012

All That I Am by Anna Funder

All That I Am is a novel using existing records and real people. I knew little of the period from 1918 until Hitler became chancellor, and I certainly knew nothing of Bavaria declaring independence from Germany in 1919.

This was a slow burner for me. I wasn't going to give up on it, but it took a few chapters for me to settle to it. But when I did, Oh!, what nuggets of research were there, laid out for me, brilliantly. There are two story tellers in this book. Ernst Toller, playwright, who died in exile in New York in 1939 - having served a prison sentence for being the leader (for a few days) of the Bavarian government; And Ruth Wesemann, who died in Australia early in the 21st century. The chapters alternate, but they are headed by character name, so it is easy to know who is telling the tale. But it really is the story of Dora Fabian that these two friends are telling - Dora, the love of Toller's life, and Dora, the cousin and closest friend of Ruth. Dora, who died because she could not stand by and leave the truth aside. The bravery of those German Jews who were desperate to tell the German people what was happening as Hitler made his play for power, and who were not safe even in London from the long arm of the Gestapo, is the reason for reading this book, that, and to pick up that little lost strand of history. The words are in English, but you will be able to see how different the German owners of the voices were from the English of that time.

A book that has no pleasant subject, but a book that should be read slowly, so that all the facts sink in. If we just change the name of Germany to an invented country such as Rhinetopia, it would be easy to describe this as a brilliant dystopian novel. Except that the dystopia is real, and the facts are there for the finding. A book that stuns the reader into taking notice.

(copy of my Amazon Vine review)