#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith Writes. How does it work? We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.
Margot Baumann has left school to take up her sister’s job in the mail room 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.
Respected Australian author James Moloney, who has an impressive back catalogue of children’s books makes his adult fiction debut with his new novel, The Love That I Have. This is a powerful story, that takes us to the dying days of World War II Germany, reminding us that love and hope can be found in moments of great despair.
The Love That I Have introduces the principal character of Margot Baumann. Margot is sixteen years old and has recently left school to take over the reins of her older sister’s job in the mail room of a German prison. But what Margot and many members of the German population do not realise is that the prison she is sorting mail for is actually a concentration camp. There are many German citizens who work at this ‘prison’. Most are unaware of the brutality and the awful camp conditions. For Margot, her job involves dealing with the mail that comes into the camp. She is under strict orders to burn all prisoner letters. This is a cruel act that horrifies her. So, to save her soul, Margot commits an act of defiance, she manages to save a number of letters. Some would call this stealing, but for Margot, the letters provide a sense of hope in the face of utter despair. Through the letters Margot becomes acquainted to Dieter Kleinschmidt. Dieter’s letters to another Margot moves this young woman greatly. Dieter’s letters have the power to change Margot beyond recognition and they become the catalyst for a huge act of courage.
Historical fiction, namely World War II based fiction and stories revolving around the holocaust are always stories I gravitate towards. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that as soon as I saw early book buzz around The Love That I Have, I knew I had to get my hands on this book as soon as it released. As with many holocaust of World War II themed books it is always problematic to state that you ‘enjoyed’ the book. Rather, I think it is best to say, I appreciated what Moloney offers his readers.
The Love That I Have have been compared to some pretty weighty and popular World War II titles that feature the holocaust. From The Book Thief, to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and All the Light I Cannot See. I can see the lines of similarity, but The Love That I have provides us with yet another different angle on this regrettable chapter of our world history. I would say The Love That I Have is an adult fiction novel, with clear YA tendencies. It is also a historical romance, along with a defined coming of age story. But what moved me the most about this book was the fact that it brought to the table another chapter of history that we may not have been aware of.
I have read many books now on World War II and the holocaust but they tend not to focus on the later stages of the war, especially from the German citizen’s perspective. Moloney presents us with a unique angle and a fresh take on an overly covered chapter from our history books. Moloney exposes the ideologies of the German people, their political mindset and how this all had to come crashing down in the dying stages of the war. Margot, the principal character, is a protagonist who comes full circle. Margot’s world view flips as she witnesses first hand the atrocities committed by her once beloved Nazi party and the figurehead, Adolf Hitler.
Margot is a completely agreeable character. The audience is meant to love her, and they do. We become completely swept up in Margot’s own views of romance, compassion and hope. Margot is initially presented as quite young and naive, ignorant to the terrible acts of brutality going on around her. However, she is forever changed by the job she takes up in the mail room. She suddenly transforms, takes risks, summons all the courage she can and challenges the world in which she has lived. The secondary character set that feature in this novel compliment Margot. I found them surprising in their own special ways. Especially when Moloney shows us an alternative presentation of German guards.
Moloney’s first effort for an adult fiction novel is one that will move you. It is delicately written, thoroughly researched and comes with an added extra of an epistolary aspect to the storyline. Dividing the perspectives of both leads, Margot and Dieter, draws us carefully into the tale. I did observe some plausibility issues in the plot, but I was happy to overlook this myself as I appreciated this novel as a whole.
In summary, The Love That I Have is a youthful and tender account of a heartbreaking period in world history. Books such as this one serve to bridge the gap, ensuring current generations are aware of the effects of this dark chapter in our shared history.
The Love That I Have by James Moloney was published on May 21st 2018 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Love That I Have, James Moloney visit here.
*Book ‘M’ of the a-z author challenge 2018