Anna Funder and the impact of imagery

I read Anna Funder’s novel All that I am before it won the Miles Franklin Award, and can see why it received the judges’ nod. It’s a compelling story, finely crafted.  I was won over from the start by the language.

A friend lent me All that I am, and I rashly returned it before I made sure I had secured my own copy. (I like to look back through books I’ve enjoyed, to revel in the craft of the writer.) When Funder snapped up the Miles Franklin, the first two bookshops I tried had both sold out. A few days later I tracked one down. Stickers on the front informed me it had won the Australian Indie Book of the Year and the Australian Book Industry Award for Book of the Year. Now it has the Miles Franklin Award. Personally, I’d settle for just one sticker on my book.

Take a look at just a few randomly chosen images from All that I am:

‘From this angle in my chair, those clouds will snag on the frangipani in the yard, its branches naked as coral, probing the air.’

‘I heard the stories so often I took them into me, burnished and smothered them as an oyster a piece of grit, and now, mine or not, they are my shiniest self.

‘The cherry blossom trees across the street are extravagant explosions, pink confetti burst from a can.’


I also have my own copy of Funder’s earlier, non-fiction book, Stasliland. There is much more of her personally in this story, and it’s a satisfying blend of storytelling and intelligent reflection.  Stasiland too was a winner of various awards and shortlisted for others, and once again it showcases her exquisite use of language, including:

‘A morning drunk walks on the ground like it might not hold him.’

‘I can see the tiny red veins filigreed across his eyeballs.’

‘Behind her the sky is the colour of wet wool.’ [A metaphor that leaves room for every reader to conjure up a different image.]

‘After she died, grief came down on me like a cage.’

Funder’s imagery, and her writing generally, appear effortless, unforced, but I know from my own experience how much blood, sweat, and anguish must have gone into crafting them. But they are inspiring. I must stop blogging now and get back to writing that book, the one that might some day have a sticker on the front…

[D R Dymock’s biography of aviation pioneer and global adventurer Bert Hinkler will be published by Hachette Australia next year. The book was the only non-fiction manuscript selected in the 2010 QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program]

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