book review: All That I Am by Anna Funder

The backstory: All That I Am won the 2012 Miles Franklin Award, which is Australia's most prestigious book prize.  

The basics: When Hitler takes control of Germany in 1933, not everyone is happy. Two couples, Dora and her playwright husband Ernst Toller, and Ruth and her journalist husband Hans, choose to do all they can to warn their country and the world of the impending war. Funder moves back and forth between Ruth's life in Australia in 2002, Toller writing his autobiography in New York, and the events themselves.

My thoughts: I've become somewhat wary of World War II fiction lately, as I've read so much of it. It's become harder for such fiction to impress me, but Anna Funder managed to do so with her debut novel All That I Am. The four characters at the center of this novel are easy to root for: they're on the right side of history. While I adore novels that make me reflect on how easy it is to be on the wrong side of history under my modern gaze, it's refreshing and inspiring to read about four people who had the confidence and boldness to fight back. All four characters are based on real people, which added a layer of intrigue for me.

What struck me most as I read, however, was not these intriguing, well-developed characters; it was Funder's writing. From the first pages I read, I commented to Mr. Nomadreader, "I'm really going to like this book." I gladly went on Funder's ride through history and time. I didn't stop to question why she chose to tell the story with three different timelines or why she tells the story through Ruth and Toller's eyes. I simply enjoyed her writing and trusted her to tell this haunting story in way as simple and as complicated as the events themselves.

Favorite passage:  "The problem with life is that you can only live it blindly, in one direction. Memory has its own ideas; it snatches elements of story from whenever, tries to put them together. It comes back at you from all angles, with all that you later knew, and it gives you the news."

The verdict: This complicated story of diverging characters and timelines could easily become muddied, but Funder's tight and lyrical writing holds everything in place beautifully.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 400 pages
Publication date: February 7, 2012 (it's in paperback now)
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy All That I Am from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

Want more? Check out the entire tour, visit Anna Funder's website, and like her on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I am really interested in this one, and I am also wary of WWII fiction because of overload. What you say about the writing really impresses me, and makes me want to seek this one out. I love books that make me rethink genres that I've been avoiding. I also love the quote you chose. So very, very true. Nice job with this review today.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the ride the author took you on!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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