All That I Am {Review and Giveaway}

by 5 Minutes for Books

Although All That I Am by Anna Funder is a novel, it is based on the true story of four young Germans (Ruth, Dora, Hans, and Ernst Toller) who fled their country in order to keep raising the alarm about what was happening in their homeland as Adolf Hitler came to power.

Ultimately, it is the story of how an entire world can close their eyes and ears to oppression and danger.

The book opens in 2001 in Australia, where Ruth is living out her days alone. As she faces the approaching end of her life, she is remembering the past more and more. When her doctor tells her she may be losing her sight, she ruminates:

I had very good eyes once. It is another thing to say what I saw. In my experience, it is entirely possible to watch something happen and not to see it at all.

Ernst Toller was a Prussian Jew who fought in WWI, suffered a complete breakdown due to the experience, and later was imprisoned for several years for leading a socialist revolution. In All That I Am, Funder shows him in New York in 1939, where he continued to campaign against the Nazi regime. Despite this outspokenness, there were times in his life when Toller was rendered virtually mute by all that he had seen and heard. Toller says of a fellow resident from the psychiatric hospital, “He addresses me without waiting for an answer, as if being mute were an entirely appropriate reaction to this world.”

We learn about Dora and Hans’ lives through Ruth and Toller, perhaps giving us an idea of how their stories might end. We see the love between Ruth and Hans, and between Dora and Toller, although their natures and their ideals make the relationships less than traditional.

As Toller recalls his complicated affair with Dora, he reflects, “Our love was like a carpenter’s spirit level, each of us holding an end up so hard, fighting to keep that trembling bubble in sight.” Hans and Ruth seemed to be a bit more stable, although they all had their secrets.

This book is, first and foremost, a beautifully written novel which draws us in to the hearts and lives of people who lived and loved amidst some of the most horrific circumstances in recent history. It is also an exploration of how a world can avoid seeing or hearing what is happening until it is almost too late to do anything about it.

The exceptional way in which Funder has produced an amazing novel while also opening our eyes and ears to the world of pre-WWII Germany is why I am calling All That I Am a 5-Star Read, just as fellow 5 Minutes for Books reviewer Elizabeth did in her recent review of the nonfiction book Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by the same author.

We have 3 copies of All That I Am to share with our readers. To enter, simply leave a comment below. We’ll announce the winners in this column on March 5th.

A review copy of this book was provided by HarperCollins. 5 Minutes for Books reviewer Trish blogs about autism, books and daily life at In So Many Words.

Email Author    |    Website About 5 Minutes for Books

5 Minutes for Books is the 5 Minutes for Mom sister site devoted to reviewing books for adults -- fiction, memoir, and nonfiction -- and kids of all ages. Managed by Jennifer Donovan, other contributors are Dawn, Lauren, Nancy, and Elizabeth. Follow us @5M4B on twitter and subscribe to our feed or like us on Facebook so you don't miss a thing!

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tammy Gordon February 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

Sounds like a great book!


2 Ticia February 20, 2012 at 8:44 am

That does sound interesting……..


3 Linda February 20, 2012 at 10:52 am

I would absolutely love to read/win this book. I love learning about WWII. It will also be an eye opener about closing our eyes to oppression in other parts of the world.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com


4 tennille February 20, 2012 at 11:02 am

Very interesting-sounds like another one to put on my list


5 Victor February 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

My sister-in-law has been hounding me to read this book, says it’s absolutely wonderful. Glad you reminded me, I’m going to have to order it off Amazon ASAP!


6 Kate {The Parchment Girl} February 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Sound like an interesting book! I’d love to win a copy!


7 Joy February 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Sounds like a great story :)


8 paige February 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm

hmmmm…i find this one very interesting. I would love to read it.


9 Jennifer February 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Of course I’d love to win a copy! This sounds really interesting.


10 Beth February 21, 2012 at 8:49 am

This book sounds really interesting. Definitely adding to my list to check out.


11 LaVonne February 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

This sounds like a great book! I hope I win!


12 Sandra K321 February 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I came over from 5 Minutes for Books to check this out. I love reading historical fiction and this sounds like a great book.


13 Margaret February 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I would absolutely love to read this! Thanks!



14 CrossEm February 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Sounds good – I’m interested!


15 Cindi February 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I love the quote by the aging Ruth about losing her
eye sight. My 93 year old dad is a WWII Veteran.
I enjoy listening to his stories and I would love to read
this pre-WWII, Germany story!
Many thanks, Cindi


16 Mary Preston February 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm

ALL THAT I AM looks like an amazing read. Yes please!!


17 Natalia February 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

I would like to win this book.


18 John February 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

Sounds like a great book!


19 Isabelle February 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

Would like to win.


20 Daniel M February 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm

sounds like a good one!


21 kristin D February 22, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Thanks for the great Giveaway


22 Teresa Lukey February 23, 2012 at 9:27 am

I just finished Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. It opens in 1915 Germany and follows through WWII. It was unnerving to understand how the German people were forced to go along with Hitler’s terrible ideas in order to stay alive. This one sounds like it would tie in nicely. Thanks for the giveaway.


23 lauren knott February 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Looks like a beautiful book!


24 Staci A February 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm

It sounds like an interesting book!


25 Linda Kish February 24, 2012 at 12:34 am

I would love to read this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com


26 samantha w February 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

sounds really good


27 Francine Anchondo February 24, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Thanks for the giveaway


28 Jenn February 24, 2012 at 11:38 pm

I would love to win this book!

Jenn from Making Hair Bows


29 Samantha D February 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

Sounds good, I’d love to have this book!

Dull2000 at cox dot net


30 Mama Zen February 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

I would love to read this!


31 Tina F February 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

sounds like a book that I would read. Books have to have substance thats appealing for me to read this sounds like its one of them


32 Kimberly Hutchins February 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm

My daughter wants to win this. She reads all the time, she loves it and I’m glad.


33 Angela E. February 26, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Sounds fascinating, would like to read.


34 Brenda Witherspoon-Bedard February 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm

sounds like a good book
brendawitherspoon at hotmail dot com


35 Michele Behlen February 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm

This sounds like a great book. I love to read this type of book.


36 Rebecca Parsons February 27, 2012 at 12:29 am

I absolutely love stories based on truth. I used to not care much about the Hitler stories and then one day I started watching History Channel before I went to bed and I love learning about it all. I would so love to read this wonderful book.


37 Cindy Murray February 27, 2012 at 12:36 am

It sounds like an interesting read!


38 Garrett February 27, 2012 at 8:15 am

Another great book, thanks


39 June February 27, 2012 at 10:38 am

What a great find.


40 Tara February 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thanks for the chance to win!


41 Barb February 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I am definitely adding this to my list!


42 Van February 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm

This book sounds so good.


43 Brittani February 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm

I’d love to get a copy!


44 Sadrina Cassiopeia February 28, 2012 at 1:32 am

It does sound interesting. Would love to win a copy!


45 nannypanpan February 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm

thanks for the chance


46 Don February 29, 2012 at 10:47 am

Would be great to win a copy of this book.


47 Lori March 2, 2012 at 9:09 am

Would like to read this one.


48 Chuck March 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Sounds so interesting.


49 Kimberly March 4, 2012 at 11:15 am

I would be very interested to read this book.


50 Jeff March 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Would really like to read this one.


51 Tina F March 4, 2012 at 11:37 pm

this book sounds so good love to read it


52 kathy brower March 5, 2012 at 12:46 am

i’d like this for my husband.


53 Lauren Ayer March 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I love to read and I would LOVE to win this book! Thank you for the Giveaway!


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