Wednesday, January 23, 2013

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Two TLC posts today! First up is Anna Funder's All That I Am.

Here's the synopsis from the back of the book:

When Hitler seizes power in 1933, a tight-knit group of friends and lovers suddenly becomes hunted outlaws overnight. Dora, liberated and fearless; her lover, the great playwright Ernst Toller; Ruth; and Ruth's journalist husband, Hans, find refuge in London. There, using secret contacts deep inside the Nazi regime, they take breathtaking risks to warn the world of Hitler's plans for war. But England is not  the safe haven they think it will be, and a single, chilling act of betrayal will tear them apart...

Based on true events, All That I Am, is testament to some of the earliest -- now forgotten -- heroes of the resistance to Hitler.

Readers, my husband has caught a bug. While I'm not exactly sick, I am the world's lightest sleeper and when you pair that with wonderful insomnia you get someone who normally runs on fumes, now attempting to run on E. Throw Anna Funder's fiction debut in the mix and you have a recipe for confusion. This is not by any means a light read and Funder's particular style makes it less so. In better circumstances, I would have been able to devote more concentration to the book and I'm sure that I would have gotten more out of it. It really sucks because I've been anxious to read Funder's fiction debut for quite some time. The tour gave me a chance to finally do that.

Funder's writing is very lyrical and poetic -- she has a beautiful way of turning a phrase. But what I found this week was that it was a style that left my exhausted brain desperately trying to connect the pieces and figure out what she was talking about. In fact, it seemed like she talked around what was happening more than giving a straightforward narrative.

Another issue that threw me was the narrative split. The story is told through two viewpoints of sorts: Ruth in 2001 -- mostly kicked off by the discovery of Ernst Toller's manuscript in a hotel safe -- and Toller in 1939 as he is working on the revisions to his memoir. This is by no means a normal issue for me. I love multiple viewpoints and timelines. This time, however, I just couldn't switch gears between narratives. Nor could I keep the timeline straight. Both characters are telling a story that takes place prior to their appearances. Obviously, Ruth is much beyond the years that the story focuses on and Toller is telling his story to an outsider helping rework his manuscript just a few years after the events in question. Not all that complicated and yet I somehow managed to make it so.

What's interesting about this book is that it's based on real events and the people in the book existed. What's more, the time period the story focuses on is actually before the war begins, which is an interesting setting that's often left out of much of the WWII fiction I've read. The new PS edition includes some great information on the events that make up the story as well as an interview with the author.

All of these things should have combined to create an immersive read for me. Instead, my poor sleep deprived self struggled and fought with the story. It was a rather unfortunate combination truth be told. I really wish I'd been able to give All That I Am a fair shot. Take it from me, if you happen to have caught what's going around -- flu or otherwise -- save this book for after you get better.

To see more stops on the tour, visit the official tour page here.

For more on Funder and her work, check out her website. You can also like her on Facebook.


Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Darn, I'm sorry the timing was off for you with this book - I know how much than can impact my enjoyment of a book. Hope your husband feels better soon!

Becky LeJeune said...

Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Hubs is better, btw. He was nice enough to share the sick with me as well :(

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I LOVED this one...but you are definitely right: it is one that you need to be able to give your whole brain to. :) Hope all is better at your house now.