review by Fiona Stager
Ruth Becker is an elderly retired German teacher living out the end of her life in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. After a lost manuscriptunexpectedly lands on Ruth’s doorstep the ghosts of her past return to haunt her. The past is now more real than the present.
We move seamlessly back to the time between WW1 and WW11 in Germany; a time when Ruth and her friends were active in peace and anti-Nazi political activities. Lead by Ernst Toller, the poet-leader and Dora, Ruth’s passionate and charismatic cousin, this group of students, artists, activists and dreamers will find themselves tested again and again.
All That I Am is alive with the history of a time I knew little about but the great strength of this remarkable novel is the fully formed complex characters. It looks at the fate of people who find themselves challenged by love, hatred, philosophy and of history. Some will find themselves wanting. Neither the individual nor the world will be the same again.
A story based on real people and events it’s a deeply moving and emotionally rich novel about people fighting for their beliefs against a tidal wave of hate, brutality and disbelief.
I was deeply moved Anna Funder’s first novel.