Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Before The Shoah

All That I Am by Anna Funder
I'm still a little undecided about how I feel about this book. The majority of the time while reading it I felt one way, but once I finished I felt almost the complete opposite. In a way it does feel a little like work getting through this, but I think by the end it's worth it.

I've read a lot of fiction that takes place during the Holocaust, so I thought I knew what I was getting into with this. But I was surprised as to how much was unfamiliar to me. Yes, the main characters are Jewish, but the main story takes place before the years we normally think of as the Holocaust, and they are instead persecuted for their political views. I always knew their were political prisoners in concentrations camps, but never really gave them much thought. One thing I had never really considered was that even after these people escaped Germany, if they tried to speak out against what was going on there, they were putting their lives in danger.

Given who the characters of this book are, there is a lot of politics within its pages. A lot of the book felt "word-y" to me and I would easily loose attention while reading parts. I found myself daydreaming quite a bit about things unrelated to the book, and wound up having to reread the same passage several times just to make sense of it all. It was also confusing because it switched between different time periods and character voices, to the point where a lot of times I couldn't really be sure when a certain scene was supposed to take place.

But as distracted as I felt through a lot of the book, when I got closer to the end it was the exact opposite. The book ended in a way I never would have expected, but given that the majority of the story is based on fact, it's what had to happen.

I walked away from this book enjoying it. But I can't forget how much I struggled through a lot of it. And do feel grateful to have been given a chance to read this, and for more knowledgeable about what it may have been like for political activists in Germany before WWII. In a way it's hard for me to say read this book because you'll love it, but I can at least say read this book because you'll probably get a lot out of it.


Disclosure: I was provided this book through TLC Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.


  1. I've got so many books on my "To Read" list right now, and I may have to add this one, too. I really like Holocaust-based novels. Sarah's Key and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are two of my all-time favorites. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This sounds interesting. I've read a lot of fiction based on the Shoah, but this looks worth putting on my list. Thanks!

  3. Great review. I really agree with what you said. It was wordy and difficult to get through at times, but I am glad I stuck with it. I really liked reading about a different time frame of WWII. I think if the author had done a better job of identifying the narrator and the time setting, it would have been a much easier read!

  4. I wrote my Masters thesis on the Holocaust (examining picture books, graphic novels, and films), and after spending so much time delving into historical accounts and artistic renderings, I couldn't pick up any work on it for awhile. I still have nightmares that are somehow related to the Shoah and/or Nazism. But I may have to give this a go as I haven't spent too much time considering the political prisoners.

  5. I'm glad that you walked away from this book with a positive feeling about it in spite of your earlier struggles with it.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  6. I'm glad to have come across your review, as I plan to read this one very soon. I'm glad to see you liked it overall.