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.