All That I Am by Anna Funder – Week 3 Readalong

This is the final readalong and conclusion of the group who have been reading All That I Am – we’re discussing the last third of the book.

While I enjoyed this section the most, as I was familiar with the characters and style of writing (a bit less feeling than the books I generally select for myself), I have to say that I’m glad this book is over. I don’t mean to sound callous (the ending was sad even though quite predictable), but this book won’t rate in my top ten for 2012.

Why? I’ve discussed previously that I found the book somewhat pretentious and also cold, clinical almost. While breathtaking in the detail of research involved, I didn’t really feel for the main characters despite the horrors that they were continually exposed to. I felt more for Ruth as an old woman trapped in a failing body than as an escapee of Nazi Germany. Perhaps I could relate more to age bringing people down than repression of freedom and speech. Does this mean that I am a callous Gen Y, unable to understand anything that doesn’t affect me? (You may answer this with a yes, especially as I plan for a cosmetics based post this week!)

This section was even faster moving than the middle third. The betrayal of one of the main characters took my breath away and put an interesting slant on things – nobody was truly safe, no matter if they were in London or Germany. The death of Dora (even though we know she meets an untimely death from almost the first page) was also well portrayed – I think the cold, clinical feel put an eerie slant as to just how far the regime would go to keep people quiet. After the trial, I felt that things moved very quickly, almost like the author wanted to speed through Ruth’s pain and settle her safely in Sydney while the ‘baddies’ didn’t get a lot of lines to describe their fate. I wanted to know a lot more about the motives of each person – Ruth, Hans and even Toller. Why did they make the decisions that they did? Why did Ruth ultimately choose Australia to move to? She could have taught nearly anywhere and she wasn’t one of the displaced people post-World War II, but living in Shanghai. What connection did she feel to Australia? Was it because it was so different from Germany and London?

While an interesting read, I wouldn’t recommend this book as a must-read. It covers a period of history that doesn’t get a lot of exposure, but failed to grab my interest. As you can see, I have many questions after reading this! While I enjoy some ambiguity after finishing a book (it does make me think after all), this was a bit much.

Did anyone love this book? Am I being unfair? While technically beautiful, this was just too cold for me.


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