Review Blog

Jun 13 2018

The love that I have by James Moloney

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Angus and Robertson, 2018. ISBN 9781460754634
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: World War II, Germany; Concentration Camps; Love and Romance; Historical Fiction; Bravery; Survival. Is it possible for a love story to be set within the shadow of a German concentration camp? Do love letters and awful atrocities ever connect in a believable way? Will love be stronger than death? These questions are answered in this amazing book set in a time and setting that is marked by terrible expressions of the power of Nazi-influenced Germany. In the shadows of this horror, Margot - an innocent German teenager, takes on a job in the mailroom attached to the Concentration Camp at Sachsenhausen. Her role is to destroy the mail 'posted' by inmates of the Camp. A decision made on a whim to read some of these missives leads her to discover more than she could imagine - she hears the humanity in the words she reads. And when one of these letters is addressed to a Jewish girl with the same first name, she learns of a young man whose words and heart-felt expressions of devotion impact her life with an unexpected empathy. Her assumption that the 'other' Margot must surely be dead, leads her to write back, as if she was the other. What follows leads the reader into the very heart of young love and into the horrors of the end of the Second World War, as the Germans were experiencing it. With some showing incredible bravery, we see the occasional glimpses of hope amidst the abyss of Nazi oppression and concentration camp life.
This is a love story in a horrible setting. For those who have been impressed by The Book Thief and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, this book will rival those stories for the insights into history, the German experience, and into the very best and worst of human hearts. It is brilliantly written with the perspectives of the two main protagonists being told at different points of the story. Death and apprehension are constant companions. Despite alternate explanations for circumstances, the power of 'story' to create empathy and compassion, as against the ignorance of propaganda is highlighted for the reader. Moloney has also reminded the reader that not all on the German side were tarred permanently with Hitler's brush, even if their sight was sometimes dimmed and their hands prevented from acting to stop the horrors. Impossibly difficult decisions are made under the pressures of war and survival.
Highly recommended for readers aged 14+ (Maturity required considering the awful situation; both male and female readers will connect despite the 'love story' genre.)
Reading group notes and teacher's notes are available here.
Carolyn Hull

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