All That I Am
Hamish Hamilton (Penguin Group (Australia)
'When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.' From this first sentence we know that Ruthie, one of the two narrators of Anna Funder's historical novel, has a story to tell, and it will be shaped by personal and intimate memories. Historical figures who bravely resisted the Third Reich in the 1930s – the socialist leader and writer Ernst Toller, the feminist activist Dora Fabian and the collaborator and journalist Hans Wesemann become compelling characters in this novel. These real lives are the fossil fragments, Funder tells us, which she clothes with the skin and feathers of fiction.
These recollections shuttle between Ruthie, the lone survivor of these young and brilliant bohemians, and now an aged woman in Bondi Junction, and Toller, as he spends his final days in New York. These narratives are a reminder of the enduring and fraught memories that remain vivid amongst refugees. Funder's novel calls upon its readers to bear witness to atrocities that are not remote history, but alive still as part of contemporary Australian heritage and society.