Friday, May 24, 2013

All that I am

The first book for discussion on Read with Raf on 774 radio is All that I am.  Published in 2011 this novel by Anna Funder has won many awards including the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award. The book follows the lives of a group of Germans who oppose war in general but particularly Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s. They are forced to leave Germany and continue their attempts to alert the world as to developments in their home country from bases in Europe including London.

Their story is told via two voices - writer and activist Ernst Toller who in 1939 is living in New York and Ruth Becker (Wesemann) who is living in Sydney in 2001. Both remember the events in which they were involved in the 1930s, particularly the part played by Dora Fabian whose body was found in a room in London in 1935.

I was not sure that I was going to like reading this book but soon became immersed in the story of the lives of people exiled from their country because of their beliefs and their challenges in convincing the rest of the world of the brutality occurring in Germany and impending danger to the rest of the world as the power of Nazi rule increases in Germany. The book shows the bravery as well as the fears of the exiles living in Britain where they are provided with temporary visas provided that they do not involve themselves in any political activity. The bury the head in the sand attitude of governments prior to World War II is a theme of the book. The exiles not only fear deportation from Britain but also fear capture by Germans sent to eliminate 'traitors'.

Based on real events All that I am deserves the acclaim that it has received not only because it is a good reading experience but also because of the account of history that is portrayed.

Selection of sources on the web:

Anna Funder's website

Mystery deaths - two German exiles - Article in The Age 6 April 1935 (Google news Archive)

Biography of Ernst Toller - Spatacus International -  Ernst Toller

Review of All that I am in Times Literary Supplement

Reading notes for All that I am - Penguin - Reading notes

Another set of questions for discussion - Reading Group Guides

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