Cover Image: The Love That I Have

The Love That I Have

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James Moloney is a prolific writer for all ages from young children to adults. I have read a few of his books for young adults and some of his fantasy novels. His latest, The Love That I Have, is quite different to these. It is written for adults, but the main protagonist is sixteen-years-old, so I thought older young adults could read and appreciate it. A Teaching Guide is included on the publisher’s website, so later years in schools could study it.
The novel is set in Nazi Germany in 1944. The first half is told by teenaged Margot, who leaves school and takes over her sister’s job in the mail-room of a concentration camp. She has grown up being told that the Nazi regime is positive and justifiable, and believes that the war has had a detrimental effect on her own family. Moloney’s depiction of this young woman demonstrates the attitudes of this time, but then she starts to question it. Her older brothers are fighting in the war and she begins to look at it from both perspectives.
As part of her job she needs to read the mail that the prisoners try to send to their loved ones, and censor or destroy them. She comes across one written by Dieter to another Margot, with such passion and devotion. She starts writing back to him as the other Margot risking her job and her life as she aims to find out more about this man. She wants someone to love her the way he loves this other Margot.
The second half of the book is told from Dieter’s perspective, giving it a great sense of balance, and then the final chapters reveal what has happened to each of them.
Moloney shows the complexities of the war at the time, the way that people are manipulated into following a regime, and challenges the stereotypes and generalisations that are made about countries and races of people. That when ‘you no longer see a man as human, you can do what you like with him’. As Margot learns ‘there’s love in all of us, that it’s a human thing and pays no attention to race or religion’. I highly recommend this for older teens and above.
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Margot Baumann is a typical German teenager in 1944. She has been raised to have an unquestioning devotion to Adolf Hitler and the supremacy of the German race. Her two brothers left to fight in the War and her sister has been working in the mailroom of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. When her sister is promoted, Margot eagerly steps into the position to play her part. 

The mailroom, where all mail entering and leaving the prison is processed, is outside the gates of the concentration camp. The prisoner’s outgoing mail is the lowest priority and quickly accumulates. Margot is entrusted with the regular reduction of this build-up by burning some of the letters. Sifting through the letters, she thinks of her brother who has not contacted them since he was imprisoned at Stalingrad and wonders if the prisoners’ letters are processed in a similar manner at Stalingrad. Recognising how much the letters mean to the writer and the intended recipients, she hides a few in her jacket and secretly forwards them on herself. 
As she reads the letters she begins to see the prisoners as people very similar to herself. ‘They showed me that there’s love in all of us, that it is a human thing and pays no attention to race or religion.’ As a result, she starts to question the patriotism she has been raised on. 

One letter catches her attention. It is a love letter from a prisoner, Dieter Kleinschmidt, to his girlfriend Margot.  As she reads it, she imagines that the letter was meant for her. Even though she knows that Dieter is writing to a different Margot, she starts to wait eagerly for his letters. She commences a dangerous charade and begins to take risks she would have never imagined. As Germany’s position weakens, her obsession with the letters leads to shocking consequences.

Maloney has written a powerful and moving story that explores the attitudes within Germany during World War II. The protagonist, Margot, clearly identifies as a Nazi in the beginning of the story. As she sees the horrors of the concentration camp and the suffering of her family and neighbours, she begins to question the beliefs that she has been raised with. Her doubts initially are clearly in contrast with most of the adult world around her. Her hope and love counter the hate and despair. Through this comparison, Maloney demonstrates how the German’s dehumanised certain races, and the way their prejudice fuelled the atrocities that occurred and made people numb to the suffering of others.  ‘Once you no longer see a man as human, you can do what you like to him. That’s one war the Nazi’s did win: the battle to change how Germans saw their fellow man.’

The story is broken up into three parts, so the reader is also exposed to the perspective of a prisoner of war, the horror of the concentration camp and the impact that imprisonment in the concentration camp had on those that survived. It also describes the loss and destruction that was left, and the way families were separated or destroyed. The story of Margot’s debut into the adult world and her relationship with Dieter are a suitable counterweight.

The Love That I Have is aimed at upper secondary students and adults.  It was both confronting and compelling. From the first chapter I was caught up in the story and swept along. It challenged and informed me, teasing out a variety of perspectives. I do not tend to gravitate to stories set during war, but after reading The Love That I Have, I am open to exploring this genre more.
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It is July 1944 and 16 year old Margot Baumann is leaving school to take over her sister's job working in the mail room for the Reich. Margot is initially unaware that the mail room where she is sorting and delivering mail is actually a German concentration camp. She is blissfully ignorant of the tragedies occurring behind the walls. Part of Margot's job is to burn prisoner letters, as they don't have the capacity to deal with them all. This breaks Margot's heart knowing that many families would be waiting to hear from their loved ones just like she eagerly awaits to hear from her brothers who are also out fighting the war. Margot defiantly saves a few letters each time, with the intention of posting them herself. But one letter captures her heart. Prisoner Dieter Klienschmidt wrote heartfelt, loving letters to his sweetheart, also named Margot. Soon Margot was responding to Dieter's letters on behalf of Margot. As Margot falls in love with Dieter's letters she is determined to help him survive.

This is a wonderful and powerful story set during World War 2 about love and hope. It provides a striking insight and perspective into the lives of people who lived through the war as seen from the viewpoint of prisoners, guards and also the innocent swept up in Hitler's propaganda. The characters show such courage and bravery and that despite the hardships they have endured, love can transcend evil. 

Moloney expertly uses  language to depict the human war experience and simply explains how humans are able to treat each other in deplorable ways, 'Once you no longer see man as a human, you can do what you like with him.' He also succinctly depicts the suffering of prisoners and explains how something as simple as 'boots can mean the difference between life and death'. Readers of all ages will find much to gain and enjoy from this novel.
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This novel was set in Germany during 1944 and 1945. It is about Margot, a girl aged sixteen who has left school and started working in the mailroom at a concentration camp. One of Margot’s jobs is to collect the letters posted by prisoners and burn them. Margot feels bad about burning the letters because she has an older brother who is a prisoner of war and she wonders if someone burns the letters he writes. Margot takes a few letters home to read with the intention of re-posting them. She is overwhelmed with the outpourings of love contained in the letters.
There is a lot of conflict and tension as Margot makes decisions that could put her life in danger as she tries to discover more about one of the prisoners writing letters.
I did have a bit of trouble believing that prisoners would have money to buy writing paper, envelopes and stamps. At times I felt that Margot was very foolish. The descriptions of the characters were good, especially Margot’s older sister Renate who was possibly having an affair with an officer. Margot and her best friend Lili share secrets and their hopes and dreams. Lili tries to give advice to Margot, but Margot ignores Lili’s advice.
This novel is a love story about war, concentration camps, friendship and families. 
I loved the ending.
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My Thoughts

‘The dead should know they are loved. He’s right, and that’s why I can’t destroy these remaining letters. Among them are the most loving I’ve come across, and too much love has been burned, tossed aside, ignored and forgotten for me to treat them so cruelly.’

I loved this book. A story that is so authentically regaled, it is as if you are reading a memoir. Those of us who never tire of diving into this tragic period in history, will find something fresh in Moloney’s tale. A simple yet compelling story, with a well weaved plot that will make everything seem so real. War is horrific, whatever side you are on, yet the bravery expressed through pure love and devotion from this tale will touch your heart. 

‘This is something I want to do just for me, to fill an emptiness inside me I wasn’t even aware of until I started reading letters from that barrel. I want to be in love like he is. There, I’ve said it, so I’ll say the rest. I want someone to love me the way he loves this other Margot.’

The fresh aspect I found is that neither Margot nor Dieter were Jews. So once again you are presented with a youthful German perspective from both in and outside the camps. Dieter, a young German who was caught up defending others and consequently punished and Margot so fresh faced and eager for life. Push away logistics of ‘how’ things were achieved, and just immerse yourself in the power of passion. Here is a young girl blinded by the Hitler youth, yet through gradual revelation, will have the blinkers removed and risk all to do what she feels is right. I was shocked by after war events - fear of the Russians  and how quickly fingers were pointed at seeming collaborators. The story of Margot and Dieter is sure to sit with you for some time. 

‘If I ever get to meet him, I’ll be looking into the face of a dreamer like myself.’

If you are at all inclined to read historical fiction then The Love That I Have is a moving tale, none least of which is the power of words and how love can feed a soul when so much appears lost. An innocent heroine filled with courage who set out to prove that love could and would triumph over hate. 

‘Maybe there is no God, only a giant set of scales, and now that the world is weighed down by hatred and war, it is up to people like us to balance things out so the whole planet doesn’t tip over into darkness.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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There are no words to describe how absolutely incredible this book was. I have always read and loved Historical Fiction, especially that surrounding WWII, but this is by far the best one I have ever read. Mr Monoley has capitavated his audience so that you feel like you are there, it pulls at every heartstring and makes you want more. I have recommended this book to all my friends and I will be purchasing this book as a physical copy to add to my collection. Outstanding!!!!
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Book blurb...
- The Australian Women's Weekly
Margot Baumann has left school to take up her sister's job in the mailroom of a large prison. But this is Germany in 1944, and the prison is Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin.
Margot is shielded from the camp's brutality as she has no contact with prisoners. But she does handle their mail and, when given a cigarette lighter and told to burn the letters, she is horrified by the callous act she must carry out with her own hands. This is especially painful since her brother was taken prisoner at Stalingrad and her family have had no letters from him. So Margot steals a few letters, intending to send them in secret, only to find herself drawn to their heart-rending words of hope, of despair, and of love.
This is how Margot comes to know Dieter Kleinschmidt - through the beauty and the passion of his letters to his girlfriend. 
And since his girlfriend is also named Margot, it is like reading love letters written for her.
From award-winning Australian author James Moloney, comes a fresh and compelling story about love, loss and profound bravery. For fans of The Book Thief, this powerful and heartbreaking story set during WW2 stays with you long after the final page is read.
'a beautiful, heartbreaking and affecting read. ... Definitely one for book club, just don't forget the tissues.' - Australian Women's Weekly

'a heartbreaking, harrowing and deeply hopeful story ... for readers of The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' - Books+Publishing

'A compelling and emotionally charged story of young love and survival, bravery and humanity. The closing months of the Second World War in Germany are seen from a surprising and fresh perspective. I was holding back tears from page 72.' - Shona Martyn, Spectrum Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

My thoughts…
In the blurb above there is much advance praise from heavy players in the book biz. Having read this story I absolutely understand why.
This heartbreaking tale reminds me how grateful I am to live such a privileged life in Australia. 
This story and the characters are so authentically told I was expecting an author’s note at the end to say the plot was based on some fact, or on a piece of history—an important story from the past that needed telling. 
There seems to be a growing trend towards this sort of wartime tale. I can only assume from the absence of any author’s note (unless it isn’t included in the ARC copy I received) that the story — a simply beautiful and skilfully plotted novel -- is courtesy of the author's imagination. 
Horrific in its war-time setting, the story could not seem more real to me.
The bravery in this story will make you cry, as will the love and devotion that finds its way through the terrible times that existed during the Second World War in Germany.
Thank you, James Moloney, and HarperCollins, for The Love That I Have. 
This is a must read if you are at all inclined to historical fiction. I put this story up there with Laren Chater's The Lace Weaver and Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network.  Don’t stop at one. Read them all. Highly recommended. Could NOT put this latest novel down (except to make coffee, stoke the warming fire, and grab a hot meal and feel grateful! You’ll understand this after you’ve read the novel.)
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I absolutely adored everything about this story. It reads like a YA Historical Fiction and it was just brilliant. It's up there with The Book Thief for me. I don't really have any words but this was just amazing and I had so many feels. 

It's told in two different perspectives, switching about halfway through the book. Just read it!
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“The dead should know they are loved.”

This book shattered and mended my heart so many times that I think I’ll be feeling the effects of it for many months to come. 

Beginning in the late stages of WWII, this story centres around a typical young woman, who’s Pro-Hitler attitude is rattled to the core when she takes a job in the mailroom of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Devastated at the lack of correspondence from her POW brother in Stalingrad, she begins to read the letters of the prisoners, with the intention of sending them to their intended recipients and through them she learns that:

“There’s love in all of us, that it’s a human thing and pays no attention to race or religion.”

Moloney has expertly captured the desolation and despair of so many lives affected by the atrocities committed in this war. And having visited the Dachau Concentration Camp myself (almost 11 years ago now), it evoked the memories of the sorrow and the turmoil I felt while walking through that camp. 

The Love That I Have, is a deeply moving tale about the power of the written word, and how, when infused with love, can help to feed a soul, even when all else appears to be lost. 

Many thanks to James Moloney, HarperCollins Australia, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this compelling story in exchange for an honest review.
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James Moloney is described as an Australian author with over 50 titles to his name, many of which were written for young people.   Though The Love That I Have was historical fiction, to a certain extent it explains the YA feel to this book.     This is great for a couple of reasons.   First and foremost, as many readers have said before, it's so important that we Never Forget the holocaust.   If this books helps a whole new generation of readers learn about the atrocities of Nazi Germany, of the millions of lives heartlessly stolen - and I feel sure it will - then this is an important read.    The second reason is more selfish.     I'm definitely partial to the YA genre and I was quite taken by this story which gave me yet another perspective on this period.

With a great opening sentence Moloney instantly made me sit up and listen and I kept listening.    "For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved three things: the long summer holidays, my brother Walther and Adolf Hitler.".    It's 1944 and Margot is a sixteen year old German girl, completely in awe of the Fuhrer and excited about starting a new job woking for the Reich.   Her two brothers are in the war and her family couldn't be more proud of them.    One brother is in a prisoner of war camp and she loves the exchange of letters between them.   Her job is in the mailroom at Sachsenhausen konzentrationslager (better known to us a concentration camp).  She is shocked to learn her job is to burn the letters the prisoners have written, imagining how she would feel if this was to happen to her brothers letters home.   Before long she has started reading some of the letters and strikes up a letter writing relationship with Dieter a young prisoner.   This book was not only their story but it showed the progression from adoration to hatred as Margots eyes were opened to the realities (and she witnessed first hand) what Hitler really stood for.   

As with almost every WWII book I've read I learnt new information about this period.        So many times whilst reading  Margot and Dieters story I'd find myself wondering if this was based on fact and Googling to find out.  I sincerely hope other readers have this same response.    A very worthwhile, educational and moving story.

My thanks to James Moloney, HarperCollins Publishers Australia and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Apart from my usual preferred genre of mystery / suspense, I have a weakness for historical novels set during WW2 and can never resist a new angle on this dark chapter in human history. When I saw that James Moloney’s new novel, The Love That I Have, was being compared with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which is one of my all-time favourite novels, I knew I had to read it!

It is perhaps no surprise that Moloney, a successful children’s author, would choose a sweet and naive sixteen-year-old girl as his main protagonist in a story of hope and love. Don’t we all remember that turbulent time in our teens, on the cusp of adulthood, when all of life still lay ahead of us and anything was possible? Even in the darkest of times, teenage girls will still swoon over handsome young men and dream of meeting their one true love, their happily-ever-after, even if the world around them is rapidly disintegrating. 

At sixteen, Margot Baumann is an innocent when it comes to love, and with youthful optimism she believes that it will always triumph over adversity. I really enjoyed seeing how the foundations of the political views she has been indoctrinated with under Hitler’s reign slowly crumble when she is being confronted with those purest of human emotions – the will to survive and love. Love expressed in the words of Konzentrationslager prisoners, whose letters she secretly reads in the camp’s mail room. Letters that will never make it to their intended recipients, because Margot, the camp’s new mail clerk, has been tasked with burning them. Her moral dilemma is very well explored here – on one hand she has been told that Jews are not really human, but on the other hand she can see that their letters prove otherwise. These are people just like her brother, who is imprisoned in a POW camp in Russia, writing home to their loved ones, voicing their hope of seeing them again. One of the letters that fall into Margot’s hands is from a political prisoner called Dieter Kleinschmidt, expressing his love and longing for his girlfriend, whose name coincidentally is also Margot. I could easily imagine that a young naive girl could fall in love with a person’s letters – and that she would act impulsively to “save” the young man who has captured her heart with his writing. I really liked Margot – she was sweet and innocent and courageous.

My own sixteen-year-old self would have been totally enamoured by this story and the idea of pure love through the written word, the meeting of two souls at a time when death was only ever a heartbeat away. However, my old cynical self was not so easily swayed, pointing out the plot holes and the implausibility of some of Margot’s actions. I was reading this book like a split personality, the little angel on one shoulder whispering: “How sweet, how beautiful!” Whilst the little devil on the other sneered disdainfully: “This would never work – this could never happen!” This novel is not marketed as a YA novel, although I thought that it would probably work better for a less cynical, younger audience than the seen-it-all jaded reader that I am. Perhaps there is a reason I prefer dark and sinister murder mysteries! So, whilst parts of the story captured my heart and offered a fresh new angle to an episode in history that has featured in thousands of books, there was a lot of suspension of disbelief necessary for me to go along with parts of the plot.

In summary, The Love That I Have offers a unique angle to one of the darkest chapters of human history, with a courageous and innocent heroine that reinforces the message that love can indeed triumph over hate and adversity. With a young teenage cast and a rich historical setting, it will appeal to a younger audience or lovers of the genre who are looking for a different approach to your typical holocaust novel in which the “good” and the “bad” are clearly defined. However, readers who find it difficult to suspend disbelief may struggle with certain parts of this story.
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What an absolutely moving love story set in one of the most terrible times and places in history. I found this hard to put down whilst at the same time there were times I didn't want to read any further as my heart was breaking. I think this story and the feelings it has left in me will stay with me for quite a while. 

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins publishers for a copy in return for an honest review.
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Margot Baumann was sixteen years of age when she began working in the mailroom of the concentration camp close to her home. Germany 1944 and Margot knew Hitler was great, and the Jews were not. Her parents, two brothers – who were both fighting for the fatherland – and sister Renate along with Margot had no reason to believe otherwise. But in the mailroom, it was her job to burn the letters the Jews wrote to their loved ones, and gradually Margot’s horror at the cruel burning of letters, as well as the treatment the prisoners were receiving changed her views.

But when Margot slipped a few letters into her pocket, her only intention was to forward them on – until she read one. The prisoner Dieter Kleinschmidt was writing a love letter to his girl who was in Auschwitz – her name was also Margot. And so, Margot’s deception began…

What would be the outcome once the war was over? What would happen to those prisoners-of-war? 

The Love That I Have by Aussie author James Moloney is my first by this author, and what a wonderful, heartfelt and emotional journey he took me on. Love, loss, courage and bravery; this phenomenal WWII story will stay with me for a long time to come. The ending was exceptionally well done – I have no hesitation in highly recommending The Love That I Have to fans of historical fiction.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read and review.
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