... astonishing ... turns out to be wilder and more expansive than a standard-issue biography ... a real-life thriller with a cruel ending ... Donner writes sensitively about Mildred’s travails while also describing how women were expected to serve a Nazi regime dedicated to the idea that 'the role of women is to populate Germany with good Germans' ... so finely textured that I can’t even begrudge Donner’s decision to narrate events in the present tense; a choice that can sometimes seem like a stagy effort to amp up the drama instead comes across as an effective device for conveying what it felt like in real time to experience the tightening vise of the Nazi regime ... Amid all the tension and the horror, Donner has an eye for stray bits of grim comedy.
Donner had access to material only family could find. She also, cleverly, compensates for what we don’t know about Harnack with what can be gleaned about her many acquaintances ... These other stories have the effect of opening up the book and turning what might have been a narrowly constructed biography into a much broader reflection on political action. They also add nuance to the question of what it means to resist ... Donner quotes passages from her sources at length, letting the reader dwell on facts rather than galloping through them. She does this stylishly, sometimes presenting events in chronological lists or highlighting fragments from her research as stand-alone text. The archival quality of the book, its enumeration and cataloging of sources, is both surprising for a biography—too rarely the site of literary innovation—and affecting ... Like the network it describes, All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days is stronger for its decentralization. Its crowdedness serves as a reminder: The greatest acts of heroism are not always done alone.
Donner not only has the scoop, she’s also a very good writer ... Donner sees biography as a creative art that can fuse elements of narrative non-fiction, essay writing and espionage thriller. The result is life-writing that draws level with fiction. Written in a pacey, suspenseful present tense, it’s biography with a pulse ... At times the breathless, thrilleresque sentences create an atmosphere of melodrama that the action doesn’t quite match up to. Where Donner excels, though, is in vividly conjuring a world and its characters ... A superb, sure-footed work of historical detection conceived with a powerful intelligence.