July Read-A-Long – All That I Am Discussion Week #3 and Wrap-Up


Book Cover:  All That I Am

Welcome to the third week and Wrap-Up of our July Read-a-Long for All That I Am by Anna Funder.  Please be aware that, if you have not read this far into the book yet, there are:

* * * SPOILERS * * *

 

Firstly, it confirmed for us the extent of Hans’ betrayal to Ruth, Dora and the cause with him ackloedged as a traitor, arranging the capture of Bertie and leading them to Dora.  Did this come as a surprise to anybody?  I think there were inklings of this in Part 2, but the extent of the betrayal was much bigger than I imagined.

We had Ruth going to Paris to get away from Hans and, probably, most of her memories. She develops an instant hatred at the betrayal of Hans, wishing he was captured. Should he have got the chance to explain his actions to her?  Did you want that face-off?  I know I did.  That would have been an interesting scene, watching them battle out over it all.

With Ruth leaving, we see the damage the separation from Dora has on her.  It is best described by this sentence: ‘… you going into an unshared future. the soul who has gone leaves your own lonelier and small, shrunken inside a body that is now a shell for loss.’

Dora’s death as the final scene of Part 2 (in the book). Did her death have an impact on you? I missed out on that, as I felt it wasn’t played on enough. Sad, but I had to read it a second time to fully comprehend her death.

Then we had the court case of Dora’s death, for the eventual outcome of it being ruled a suicide.  This I found slightly unfair and unjustified, even if based on real facts!  For me, Dora was the heroine for the cause, even though she was not much of a person.  Then the ruling works, I suppose.  Not much of an outcome for not much of a person.  I can almost hear you scowling at that one already!

Then we have Ruth’s imprisonment for five years, with her being denied her fathers funeral.  Again, I was going to say it was not really fair, but at the time, there was not much fairness to be had.  She was a convicted criminal by then, so no lenience was shown.  Did you feel that she deserved the opportunity to go?

For me it took until page 340 to get to the Australian component of the novel by saying Australians aim for one main thing decency. Do you think this was well done or too little too late?  Is this all that could be said about this country?  Really?  Still, if that is what makes up Australia it makes it a good start.  I do not think it was enough to justify the Miles Franklin Award.  How about you?

Now, for the ending.  Toller’s suicide and Ruth’s quite passing.  Is Toller a coward to taking such an easy way out?  Had he done everything he could?  Was there more he could have done?

Ruth just slides away from us in the end, having learnt what happens to Hans, Dora and Toller.  Do you think she died happy being able to fill in those blanks in her life?

Hans ended up being relegated to that typical bad guy scenario – being on the run and dying in some isolated corner of the world.  Was this fitting?  Did he deserve such harsh treatment?

Had any of them had a fulfilling life?  Did they have any impact on Germany in the end?  Did they make the war shorter?  Was the point of their lives valid?

I see that this book could have been so much more. A better dynamic between our cast would have lent itself to the lack of an emotional tie I felt.  There was not enough difference in the three voices for me. I was reading what I thought was a Ruth chapter, until the narrator starting looking at Ruth!  I feel as though I should have known who is was by the tone and the language.

Well, that’s my thoughts.  Let me know how you went.

13 thoughts on “July Read-A-Long – All That I Am Discussion Week #3 and Wrap-Up

  1. Lots of things disappointed me about the final section of this book and you’ve touched on two of them: the lack of a confrontation between Ruth and Hans and the lack of drama/tension surrounding Dora’s death. Hans was Ruth’s husband, a great love and they were happy – the fact that this disintegrated to such a point and he betrayed her (and a friend!) so utterly was quite a bit point in the book but there’s no pay off. They never see each other again…. Ruth never gets a chance to ask WHY he betrayed her, why he did this. I know Hans was searching for recognition but to do a 180 on your beliefs and convictions with little explanation and justification was weak.

    Dora’s death did not have the impact on me that I feel it should have. I didn’t like Dora to be honest but I still feel that her death should have affected me in some way, at least I should have felt outrage at what happened, but I did not. In fact it interested me very little I feel the way in which she died contributed to that as well.

    The lack of information about Ruth’s time in prison in Germany also bothered me. It’s very glossed over almost like she just popped down to the shops rather than spent 5 or so years incarcerated by one of the most brutal regimes in modern history.

    It bothered me that Ruth never really bothered to say why she chose Australia, just that she had enough money for a passage there in Year X. I still feel that this book could have placed Ruth anywhere in her last years and it wouldn’t have changed a thing. I do not particularly see it as a Miles Franklin winner (not denying that it may be worthy of other awards). But I’m not a judge so I don’t know just how much importance they place upon that and what they consider enough to satisfy requirements. For me personally no, it did not.

    I also found the end quite predictable, the peaceful passing after completing the memoirs.

    All in all, I’m disappointed by this experience. I’m not sure how much of that is my own fault for expecting more from the winner of one of our most prestigious awards, but I had read plenty of mixed reviews of this before that so… I don’t know. It just didn’t grab me in the way that I feel as though it should. I was never truly invested in the characters themselves.

    1. I am so glad to have a lot of my feelings vindicated. It lacked from so many directions for me I’m afraid. I must agree with Bree on many points here. Love to see some more feedback.

  2. I ended up writing <a href="a review of the book instead of about the last third, this time.

    I started this book knowing very little about it and I hadn’t read any reviews of it, I only remember hearing Marg say she had very mixed feelings about it when she read it earlier in the year. I wasn’t as disappointed by it as you and Bree were, though some of your concerns I share. I was often frustrated at the lack of information – why England, why Australia? etc. – but I liked how Dora’s death was handled, and Hans’ betrayal (which wasn’t unexpected in the least). It became more clearly about Ruth and Toller after the other two were gone, and the whole atmosphere changed. I found it tragic and sad and … ghostly.

    Since Ruth never did see Hans again in real life, I wouldn’t have wanted the author to make something up just to satisfy our sense of drama or curiosity. It’s a fine balance, I’m sure, between staying true to your source material, the history and the real personalities, and making it readable fiction.

    Would I have liked a more Australian-centred novel to have won the award? Sure. But for all my ambivalence and mixed feelings about this one, I’m not disappointed it won. That said, I haven’t yet read any of the other long-listed books, to know what it was up against. I’m definitely happy that I read it, and that you organised this read-along. 🙂

      1. Oh gosh I’m not sure about that! I did two read-alongs this month and they both took up so much time and energy. Lots of fun but I’m hoping to have a few months of just reading solely for pleasure! Maybe later…

        Though I do have other long-listed (short-listed?) books to read: The Precipice, Autumn Laing and That Dead-Man Dance (oh wait, that was the year before wasn’t it). Is that the aim, to go through the short-list?

  3. Oh, and you mentioned Toller’s suicide – I knew he’d do that even before I looked him up after week 1, he was so clearly depressive, and he kept thinking about how he travelled with rope and hinted at previous, maybe not attempts, but almost attempts? I felt sad for him. What did he have left, really? Just his demons.

      1. Generally those kind of tortured-suicidal-artist types annoy the crap out of me and I don’t feel that much sympathy for them, and in terms of the overall novel I didn’t find Toller to be a strong character or presence, mostly just filler. His voice wasn’t distinctive enough; I’m not sure Funder wrote him that successfully. But I did come to like him, I just don’t have much patience for his “sort”. That sounds mean doesn’t it?!

  4. I’m hosting another read-a-long for the publisher next month Stephen, although I’m not sure that once again, it will be your sort of thing, haha. However if you are interested, feel free to email me or DM me on twitter for more info.

  5. Finally finished my Part 3 review and very glad to see I’m not alone in my thoughts! This one wasn’t my favourite, it was just too distant and cold for such a harrowing subject.

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