To be honest, generally when I see a new book set in or around World War 2 I wonder whether there is anything they can add to bigger story, when there’s so much out there already. And in the case of The Love that I Have, what could an Australian writer in 2018 tell us about the life of a young German woman in Nazi Germany? But when I heard it pitched at TeenCon at All Day YA, and then started to see the reviews coming out, I put aside my doubts and requested a copy for review from Harper Collins. I am so glad I did! Despite the setting of this book being decades ago and on the other side of the world, I felt like The Love that I Have was super relatable and was really relevant to today’s world.
The opening lines of this one grabbed me right away:
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved three things: the summer holidays, my brother Walther and Adolf Hitler.”
We follow teenage protagonist Margot to her first day at her new job in a concentration camp near Berlin, where she starts to discover that what she has been brought up to believe in isn’t at all what it seems. I feel like one of the scary things we get from following along with Margot’s is how easy it is for people in power to get others onside with opinions that are so unfounded and unjust (I think there are actually no words for how bad), and how easy it is to dehumanize a whole group of people to ‘justify’ horrific treatment of them. It has never occurred to Margot to question what she has been taught about Jewish people, and so she hasn’t. I loved that this book encourages young people to question what they are told about people different to themselves, and I think this is something that remains so so important in today’s world.
I generally enjoy the use of different perspectives for telling the story in novels, and I thought it was really well done in The Love that I Have. There were a few things characters did that I wasn’t sure whether I thought was believable (for instance, some of the risks that Margot takes) but I didn’t find this hard to forgive given I think the message is so important. There were a couple of twists that I didn’t expect – this was definitely not a book where I felt like I knew or could guess how everything was going to turn out – and there was a little link back to Australia towards the end that I really appreciated.
For me it wasn’t the love story here that won me over, rather I was really impressed by the thoughtful treatment of the issues behind it, and the way the story touches on the importance of compassion and kindness to people who are different to us, and also encourages the reader to put a filter on what they are hear about others. I really like that Harper Collins have Reading Group notes and a Teaching Guide (it is recommended for upper secondary) available for this one on their website.
***The Love That I Have***
Available now from Harper Collins
Genre: Historical Fiction (Young Adult)
Source: Free book sent to me Harper Collins for review (all views are my own)
Read it if you loved: The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth
Find James Moloney here