All That I Am

Anna Fun­der
  • Review
By – March 9, 2012

Ernst Toller, one of the nar­ra­tors of All That I Am, is vis­it­ing New York in 1939 when news breaks that the SS St. Louis has been turned back from Havana Har­bor to Europe, with its full load of pas­sen­gers flee­ing the Nazis. He is dic­tat­ing the sto­ry of his com­rade-in-arms and true love, Dora, to his sec­re­tary. Ruth Beck­er, the nov­el­’s oth­er nar­ra­tor, is liv­ing in Bon­di, Aus­tralia in 2001. Quite ill, she spends her long days remem­ber­ing details of her past life in Berlin and Lon­don in the 1920s and 30s. She was part of a tight cir­cle of polit­i­cal activists which was led by her cousin Dora and includ­ed Toller and Ruth’s hus­band, a dash­ing young jour­nal­ist. Dora was a fire­brand whose efforts began with her work to release Great War hero Toller from prison. The four friends were ear­ly heroes of the resis­tance, fight­ing against the rise of Hitler while in Berlin and con­tin­u­ing their efforts to bring him down when they became exiles in Lon­don. They took on incred­i­bly dan­ger­ous mis­sions with only their small cir­cle and a few oth­ers with­in their trust. Fun­der describes the trag­ic sto­ry of these four ide­al­ists, rich­ly paint­ing for us their loca­tions and emo­tions. It was dif­fi­cult to keep up with the alter­nat­ing nar­ra­tors casu­al­ly switch­ing their rem­i­nis­cences from the present to the past, but well worth the effort, as this intel­li­gent, beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten book offers deep insight into an impor­tant piece of history.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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