All That I Am : a novel by Anna Funder

All That I Am by Anna Funder
All That I Am: a novel by Anna Funder

Australian author Anna Funder’s first novel, All That I Am: a novel has had a dream response. It was recently named Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards and has been nominated for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards and the Miles Franklin Award which will be announced in a few days time on 20 June.

Although it is a work of fiction it is inspired by the author’s friendship with German Jewish activist Ruth Blatt (also known as Ruth Koplowitz) who emigrated to Australia.

In the novel Ruth is living out her final years in Australia and reflecting on her life with her husband a journalist Hans Wesseman, playwright Ernst Toller (also based on a real person) and Toller’s lover, fellow activist and early feminist Dora Fabian.

Ruth helped her cousin Dora hide and smuggle Toller's work out of Germany in the wake of the Reichstag fire of 1933. All four fled to London in the late 1930s from Nazi Germany and are trying to warn the British Government of the impending chaos of Hitler’s rise to power.
Toller is the second narrator of the book who is dictating his biography in New York as the Holocaust begins. This means the story bounces back and forward throughout time but because of Funder’s use of alternating narrators for each chapter it works.

World War II and the holocaust have been a prolific source of inspiration for many novels and other works of art but this very valuable addition to the genre. The characters are complex and flawed and the relationships they form dysfunctional and therefore realistic.

One of the messages of the book is the need to dream or imagine the sufferings of others in order to do something to stop it. As we know all dreams can't be sweet, sometimes they are nightmares.