There are a lot of books that get a lot of hype and sell purely on the hype alone and there are other books that are truly marvellous that deserve all the hype and accolades that are being heaped upon it. All That I Am is firmly in the second category.
I have read a lot of books, both fiction and non fiction, about the Second World War but never anything of any depth and substance about the inter-war period, particularly from the German perspective. For me the inter-war years have only ever been a chronology of dates tracking Hitler’s rise to power and Germany’s build up to war. Anna Funder expertly and intimately captures a nation on a headlong course to war and the courageous individuals who are trying to prevent this catastrophe.
What appealed to me most about this book was how personal it was. The broader issue of the rise to power of the Nazis and their march to war wasn’t covered because we all know this. Instead the book focuses on a small group of individuals who opposed the slow erosion of their freedom, their individuality and their country. It is one of those unknown questions you ask yourself about the Second World War. What would you do as an individual in Germany in the 1930s? Could you possibly make a difference? And most importantly would you have the courage to try?
Anna Funder brings to life four people who did have the courage to try and the consequences their act of bravery had. They fought for their country which was then denied them. As exiles they tried to open the world’s eyes to what was happening at the risk of being sent back to Nazi Germany and instant persecution. They tried to fight a fast rising tide of war with words and ideas against a wall of fear and terror that would ultimately lead to betrayal and devastation.
All That I Am deserves every prize that is thrown at it and more. It opened my eyes to a story and a side of history I was severely lacking in understanding and made me aware of some truly brave people. It is a book everyone should read and I would love to see it put on a high school reading list. Funder’s skill as a writer is immeasurable and I will be making sure I make time to read her non-ficiton book Stasiland. Believe all the praise you hear about All That I Am it is everything everyone says about it and so much more.