“When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.”
Anna Funder’s All That I am is one of those books that I put off reading and put off reading, in spite of (or possibly because of) my mother’s strong recommendation (just kidding, Mum, don’t kill me.) But, once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.
All That I am dives into the memories of Ruth, an emigree who fled from NAZI Germany, first to Britain before moving to Sydney. She and her husband, Hans, are members of Germany’s radical Left, and with Hitler’s rise to power are forced to flee hedonistic Berlin for London. The book moves between Ruth in her old age to Ruth in her youth, as well as stopping with Ernst Toller, a once-famous Pacifist politician now writing his memoirs, and trying to excise his grief and to exorcise the ghost of Ruth’s cousin Dora in the process.
Funder captures Ruth, both young and old, beautifully. The devil-may-care attitude of an old woman long-accustomed to being alone and forced to relive her past is perfectly paired to the confusion and commitment of her youth, and the build-up to war is captivating. And, NAZIs being NAZIs, there are murders, kidnappings and an inevitable betrayal.
“The British government was insisting on dealing with Hitler as a reasonable fellow, as if hoping he’d turn into one.”
All That I am is littered with beautiful prose, and feels intensely, vividly real.
Written for my Year of Reading Women
and for the Australian Women Writers.