Cover Image: The Puzzle Women

The Puzzle Women

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Member Reviews

The novel is focused mainly on mystery and abuse, with quite sparse bits of historical fiction added. Lotte, a girl with Down syndrome, is quite nice and sweet, maybe a tad too highly functional depicted - I know two girls/women with Down and neither one of them is this resourceful and skilled at all kinds of things (baking, traveling on her own, etc). Rune/Roo is very sweet and protective towards his sister, but at the same time kind of depressed and addicted on oxy. The other secondary characters are given too little space to develop.

Although I felt for the mom and I appreciated her trying to escape the abusive relashionship and spare her children from such a life, the book overall didn't quite make an impact, maybe because of the writing, which was too pompous and flowery for my taste - even the letters are full of metaphors that I highly doubt a daughter with Down's syndrome would understand..
Also, the ending didn’t quite work for me.

* Plot: 3.5★
* Characters: 3★
* Language/Humor/Witticism: 3★
* Enjoyability: 3★
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This was a great read, enjoyed it thoroughly, was hooked from the first page, loads of twists and turns, would recommend it x
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I received this book "The Puzzle Women" from NetGalley and all opinions expressed are my own. I enjoyed reading this book. The story is set in 1989 and 1999. The characters are awesome, loved them all. This is a really good historical fiction book. The story line was outstanding. A page turner for sure.
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The Puzzle Women is an exceptional story set in two time periods in Germany.  The 1989 story takes place in both West and East Germany shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall and shortly after.  The 1999 story takes place in Germany and is about Rune (age 20) and Lotte (age 15/16) now grown up.

The physical and mental abuse their Mama faces by her very powerful husband is inhumane and constant.  While Lotte, a Downs Syndrome child, seems to be exempt from Papa’s madness, Rune is not.

The story is much too complex for me to do it justice in these few paragraphs.  I loved everything about this book, the writing style, the subject matter, the characters – mostly likable, one not so much – people willing to help one another in spite of danger to themselves, and so much more.

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Puzzle Women.  I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend this captivating novel.  I’ve moved it to My Top 5 Favorites of 2020 list.
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"The Puzzle Women" is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. It covers difficult subjects including domestic violence and rape sensitively. The historical context is fascinating because the first part of the story is set around the time that the Berlin wall fell and political tensions were high. 
After years of domestic abuse, Rune and Lotte's mother fleas with her children from West to East Germany. Life in the east is difficult for children who have grown up in the west, particularly for children like Lotte who has Down's Syndrome. Their very powerful and influential father tracks them down and takes the children back. Their mother disappears. Ten years later, a teenage Lotte is determined to find out what happened to her mother. Her investigations infuriate her father which triggers a serious of dangerous consequences for Rune and Lotte.
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I was given this book by NetGalley for an honest review, one of the best books in historical fiction genre I have read in a while, the book has many unforeseen twists and turns. The intrigue and mystique has been maintained throughout the book. A fine read indeed,
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The Puzzle Women - for me was an incredible book. Very beautifully written and a book that tells an important story.

Both full of sadness, and love, with characters that stay with you long after the story ends.

Very heartbreaking at times, but full of relationships and support.

This book is one to pick up, read, share and talk about!

Thank You to NetGalley, Author Anna Ellory and Amazon Publishing UK for my advanced copy to read and review.

 #ThePuzzleWomen #NetGalley
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If there is one book you read before the end of the year, make it this one! It is destined to be picked up for movie rights, as it tells a story not often told, but in today's climate, is much needed to be told. I literally could NOT put this book down, once I started on it. The story works itself back and forth in time, telling the story of the past, through Mama's notebook, and the memories it brings back to Rune and Lotte. As they piece through their memories, they realize things were worse than they remembered, and what seemed like craziness on their mother's part was really a chance to give them freedom from fear, and their father. 

It takes a hard look at what life was like behind the wall in Eastern Germany, and how aspects of WWII never left, just gt worse, as they were heavily influenced by Russian Communism. It's not a book for those who can't handle violence in literature, but it's an honest look at how power corrupts and how domestic violence can cause ripples of harm, is breathtaking.
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The first word that comes to mind after reading THE PUZZLE WOMEN is emotional.  Anna Ellory takes her readers through every emotion on the spectrum.  Fear and agony to love and regret and so much more.  She has built a community of characters that have survived against huge odds and are seeking answers to many of the questions of what ultimately happened to their mother.

Mama has tried to shield them from the worst of Papa's angry outbursts of violence, both physical and emotional.  Many times, they tried to escape his ever worsening actions.  When Mama disappears, the light and goodness leaves the home.  These children grow, learning to lean on each other and avoid anything to set off Papa. Then, a clue.  A notebook that belonged to Mama is found.  Papa's rage and fear cause him to destroy the notebook.  

This is where the PUZZLE WOMEN come in.  They are a group of women specializing in recreating documents that have been torn or shredded.  As they work to put Mama's notebook back together, each character must face what will happen when it's read.

A story so good, so well written, you'll lose track of time while reading.  You will not stop reading until you know what happened to Mama.  Anna Ellory has written a brilliant tale.
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The Puzzle Women: before we begin… 
Anna Ellory and I attended the same Creative Writing course at Bath Spa University, and I was lucky enough to see some very early drafts of this MSS shortly after she’d sold The Rabbit Girls. I am totally honoured to read and review her book, but if it sounds like I’m totally in love with Ellory and her work – I am. This is the second time I will be openly reviewing Anna Ellory’s poignant historical fiction. The Rabbit Girls, her debut novel, was a bestselling novel about love and betrayal in a time of war. It made me cry, and I’ve no doubt this novel will do the same. The Puzzle Women is about ‘truth, freedom, and the unbreakable bond of a mother’s love.’ 
The Synopsis: 
Berlin, 1989. Siblings Rune and Lotte are awakened by Mama and told to follow her quietly into the night. Last time they snuck away from Papa, they were back within the week. But this time they are starting a new life, Mama says – where nobody can hurt them again. Ten years later, the memories of their escape are blurry; Mama is long gone and the siblings are back at Papa’s house. But when they receive a mysterious notebook from Mama, Papa tears it apart. Could there be more to their past than they’ve been led to believe? Can they learn the full, brutal truth in Mama’s own words at last? 
Trigger Warnings: 
Domestic Abuse

The First Three Chapters: 
‘to exist in the hope of newly fallen snow… for it to be both fleeting and everlasting; to be both feather-light and solid’.  
I’ve been hosting a Gothic Fiction themed readathon over on Youtube, and therefore reading a lot of Gothic Fiction recently. So maybe it’s that tinted-lens that’s making me connect the dots in this way, but The Puzzle Women, even on the opening page, SCREAMS Gothic Fiction to me. The luxurious language and descriptions are a rich even as they paint a dark and sinister scene. So, obviously, I’m a big fan. I haven’t seen anyone comment or call this novel Gothic – so like I said, it might be a lens, context and time thing. But with phrases like ‘I should like to feel the safety of words imprinted on my soul,’ and ‘the dark is so porous it is tar, it is suffocation, it is time itself’ – you can see where I’m coming from? 
In the opening chapters, we learn just enough about Papa to be frightened of him. He’s abusive, first and foremost, a dark terror of anger and control. He’s homophobic, misogynistic, manipulative, controlling, and a police officer. It’s worth mentioning this contextually, with BLM and SARS Riots ending in Police Brutality, violence and Death, there are very few things more terrifying than a Police Officer who can be violent at the drop of the hat and then be protected by his friends and colleagues. It’s a disgusting reality for many and it hits like a punch to the stomach in this narrative to. Anna Ellory has written several articles on what it’s like to be a victim of Domestic Abuse, and it’s the startling reality and brutal truth of her words that add a layer of poignancy that simply cannot come from pure imagination. 
https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/domestic-abuse-victim-safety-courts-law-women-a9680641.html
“Victim-blaming is transference of ownership and official agencies use this to relinquish responsibility and perpetuate fossilised misogyny which leaves women silenced, confused and inevitably managing their abusers alone.” – Anna Ellory, for the Independent. 
Papa’s presence is felt in every chapter, as both Lotte and Rune navigate the abusive and domineering household. They are aware of every change, every sound. And it creates for a very intense reading. It’s heart-breaking, and powerful, and it makes me want to cry. 
Teenage Rune wants to be an artist. Working as a Janitor, unpaid, with the Police Academy and the life his father has planned for him ahead, his life is dark and desperate. When he fails to get into the Art Institute, he feels as though his one means of escape is slipping from his grasp. 
Lotte has Down’s Syndrome, and experiences the world very differently from Rune. It’s unclear if her child-like nature is related to her learning difficulties, or the damaging upbringing. When the letter from her Mama arrives, she has to spell out each letter and is surprised to see her own name. Yet she’s so in-tune with the house and the kitchen, it’s clear that is her comfort zone. (Remember earlier, when I mentioned her father is a misogynist?) 
The scene which is described in the synopsis: of Papa tearing up the notebook from Mama is so painfully slow and surreal. You know it’s coming, and yet the quiet atmosphere created by Ellory is loud in your head. You want Lotte to take the notebook before he has to break it – and that’s when you know it’s too late for you, too late for these characters. You’re in this together now. 
Final Impressions: 
This is a powerful, poignant and (I’m struggling to think of another P-starting and relevant adjective, but you get the idea) – novel. It’s lengthier than The Rabbit Girls, and the pace does slow towards the middle before picking up again. But I am so enamoured with Anna’s writing that I have NO QUALMS recommending and promoting this book to you. Just be prepared to cry, as I did. A lot.
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Loved it and would give the book 4.5 stars. Loved everything about it- the characters, story and writing style. The subject matter is definitely difficult to read at times. All the physical and mental abuse, Lotte and Rune's mama was one strong and brave woman. She would do anything to protect her children. I found it very interesting reading about Berlin before the Wall fell. It's hard to believe how the people lived with the Stasi constantly watching you and keeping notes. You couldn't trust your neighbors, family members or friends. Such a scary time. Loved Lotte and Roo's relationship. There was so much love between them. The Puzzle Women were amazing. I can't imagine trying to put all those shredded pieces of paper back together. They were so sweet to Lotte. They were the perfect people for Lotte and one to meet. They would do anything to help Lotte and Rune find the truth about what happened to their mama. Papa made me sick. He was such a terrible and horrible man. Those words don't even describe how awful he truly was. He even tried to blame Rune for what happened to Lotte. 

Definitely recommend the book. Loved reading about all the characters and getting to know them. I was excited to read this book because I LOVED "The Rabbit Girls" and it definitely didn't disappoint. Look forward to reading more books by the author. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Amazon Publishing UK through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This is a remarkably interesting and intriguing book. It is about domestic violence, abuse and pain but it is also about love, family, hope and resilience.

It is the story of a mother who loved her children. It is about children who loved their mother and share a close bond and love each other. It is about taking your fate into your own hands, about being brave, about taking chances. It is about helping others. It is also about fear, self-medicating, and fear. 

Then it is also about women helping others. About piecing the pieces back together. It is a search for the truth, it is about Berlin's history. The Puzzle women who worked tirelessly to reconstruct shredded files of the former secret police.

Heartbreaking at times, this book tells the story of siblings Rune and Lottie, their Mama and Papa.  This was a beautifully written and captivating read.  It will not be easy for some to read, but it is worthwhile.   There are parts that will put a smile on your face. This was my first book by this Author, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Gut wrenching and heartbreaking yet filled with warmth and beautiful love, this intense book is impossible to set aside until completely read and mulled over.  Your heart will pound and drop and you will hold your breath as you follow this family on a dual timeline in Germany as they traverse a nightmare, not life.

Mama, Roo and Lotte make another attempt to leave their home on tiptoe with a few belongings, desperate not to awaken Papa and his horrendous wrath.  But their escape doesn't last for long.  The bond between the three is super close and Mama does what she can to instill real love into her children with words and actions.  Papa is a looming threatening dark presence whose actions are despicable and heinous which we see throughout the story.

The arrival of a notebook from the past in the mail changes everything.  Shortly after Lotte discovers Puzzle Women who literally go through bags and bags of shredded documents and puzzle them back together.  They help fit the pieces into place in her own family's history, one at a time.

The characters are so very emotive and believable and engaging, almost too real.  I can't say it's an enjoyable read but a necessary read.

*Trigger warning:  torture and domestic abuse.  

My sincere thank you to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this poignant book in exchange for an honest review.  Much appreciated.
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This is book that is hard to put down as it grabs the reader from the start. The story is mainly about a family, Papa, Mama, Roo and Lotte but is so much more than a family story. The story epitomises the love of a mother for her children in a vey emotional, painful way. I loved the fact that this entwined two stories into one as it was based upon  historical facts. I knew of the separation of Germany by the Berlin Wall, some of the issues and problems caused by fall of the wall and the amalgation of the East and the West peoples. I did not know of the existence of The Puzzle Women before and this was so beautifully wound into the family story.
This is a heart warming story defining a mothers love for her children facing the pychological and physical abuse from her husband. There are a lot of disturbing torture descriptions and throughout I would say that it was a brutal read. I adored Lotte who was a Downs Syndrome child but was very strong in her thoughts and kept on saying that she was independent to help her fight her place and try to make people realise that she was capable of more than people gave her credit for. It did not help that this story was set in a period where people who were disabled, mentally or physically, were basically locked away out of sight in special places. 
There were many beautiful moments throughout defining a mothers love for her children, the entwining of hearts and the magic of being born. Lotte as the younger sibling took a long hwile to understand what her Papa was really like.The most unforgettable  moment was when Lotte states why she likes Bees as it is so beautiful in her thought process. Bees have tiny wings and big fat bodies and they shuld not be able to fly but they can. Such a lovely comparison to Downs Syndrome people often in shape and strength of character.
This was a very skilfully written story that captured the essence of all the characters. I have to admit that at the end I was crying as the emotions fully hit and it took a while to calm myself down. I look forward now to reading the previous book by this wonderful author and to watch out for any other books that she may write.
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The Puzzle Women is a remarkable story full of rugged, tenacious, amazing women who refuse to let history repeat.
It's a story of triumph over evil, hope over despair, love over hate, and it's a story that we all need to hear!
Thankfully, Anna Ellory has written this captivating piece that showcases the pain during the Berlin Wall experience, coupled with an explosive and abusive past history, combined with mental and medical issues.
It's a powerful story of a mother and her daughters fleeing (in more ways than one) for not only their safety but their freedom.
Rune and Lotte both suffer from similar fates but the central focus is surrounding Roo- Stasi -informer, traitor, who followed the mom and forced her to have surgery.
Now, the mom is missing and presumed dead.
It's a heroic scene filled with psychological torture and mental mind games that will seem all too real.
Being taken advantage of is not Lotte's only label as she's determined to uncover the powerful true story behind her mother's notes.
In the end those responsible are charged but it's such a sad, emotionally draining, mentally exhausting tale in which the woman was found in such a state and the person(s) responsible may be closer than you think.
Thank you to Anna, the pub, NetGalley, and Amazon Kindle for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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The Puzzle Women is a dual-time story, set in 1989 at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and ten years later, in 1999. As the story opens, Mama takes her children, Rune and Lotte, and flees her abusive marriage. Ten years later, Mama is gone, the children are back in Papa’s grasp, and their memories are faded. Lotte, the younger of the two, barely remembers anything of Mama, their escape, and what follows. But one day a mysterious notebook arrives. Lotte struggles to read, but she sees enough to know the notebook came from Mama.

“‘Mama!’ That sharp pointy word came at her from the page with soft hands and the voice of songs. It was an all-over feeling. It was a new feeling. It was a feeling of holding on so tight, so as not to be left. Of being still, which was far harder than being quiet. Of quiet being the sound that roars on the inside. Of sucking her thumb and listening to words transformed into the cakes of dreams.“

Papa finds the notebook and destroys it. So when Lotte learns of the “Puzzle Women,” reconstructing files the Stasi had shredded and left behind when the Berlin Wall fell, she determines to be independent and to seek their help. Telling no one where she is going, she sets out on her own with her goal firmly in mind.

Rune, upon learning Lotte is gone, is frantic to find her. He is overwhelmed with guilt for what he thinks he’s done, burdened with fear for what he thinks will happen when his past choices are made known. He fears that nothing but hurt will come from any revelations the Puzzle Women may make from scattered pieces of the past.

“The official line was that the Stasi had ‘disappeared her’ but he’d been there, and it wouldn’t have happened without him. Rune had made her death inevitable, even if he hadn’t killed her himself. How was he ever to explain that to Lotte? He didn’t want to see Lotte’s face when she ran out of the notebook entries. When the reality of death and the beginning of grief began for her. And the questions that began with ‘how?’ started. If Lotte knew what he had done too, would she be able to understand ? He wasn’t asking for forgiveness – he could never forgive himself. But for Lotte to look at him differently, it would destroy him.“

Lotte just wants to remember, wants to know what the notebook says and who Mama was, wants a place where she fits. I adored seeing Lotte’s character develop through the course of the book. Papa made her think she was nothing. But others saw her value, and she began to shine in the warmth of their love and approval.

“‘Why do you like bees so much?’Clio asked. Lotte looked at Sabine, who winked. Sabine knew why. She looked at Pepin, who laughed. She knew why too. It made Lotte happy that her friends understood her. ‘Because,’Lotte explained, ‘they have tiny wings and big fat bodies. They shouldn’t be able to fly and yet they do.’‘So?’‘So, sometimes you can be more than what people think you can be.’‘Exactly,’said Sabine and Roo at the same time.“

The story pulls you along. Tension is constant, as there is always the fear of what Papa will do, where he will turn up, what strings he can pull to bring his family back under his thumb when they dare to think that perhaps they are finally beyond his reach. Ellory turns a wondrous phrase, and her skillful use of language to draw mental images makes the words come alive in the reader’s mind. “He reread the rejection letter; the words felt like bullet holes, fossilised wounds – a constellation of stars, and just as unreachable.” “Lotte felt good, really sunflower-yellow good, and she fell asleep listening to the warming glow of Sabine’s laugh.” “The point he had been trying to make slip-slid off his face and puddled in his belly.” The book is filled with instances like that, where the words you just read make you pause and visualize what the author has said.

This is not necessarily an easy read, especially not for anyone who has suffered abuse. But it is an enthralling read, brutal yet healing, full of harsh reality and sacrificial love. The language is beautiful, and the story is compelling. It is worth your time.

Disclaimer: I received an advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
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This is a part of recent history that I know so little about. I remember the Berlin Wall falling but this is the first time that I have read about the secret police and the shredding of their files. Lottie is the stand out character in this story. Her fight for independence is so movingly written. Parts of this story were hard to read. Lottie and Rune’s mama went through so much pain and torture trying to get away from her abusive husband. Her bravery is incredible. I had never heard of the puzzle women before. I was fascinated by their work and their caring nature. This is a harrowing read which held my attention the whole way through.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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Have you had that experience where you begin reading a book, and it's not bad, but you're still withholding judgement—and then, about 10% of the way in, you realize you're reading something exceptional, and you know you'll be staying up until you've read every last word of it? I had that experience reading Anna Ellory's The Puzzle Women.

I don't want to say too much about this title because it was so wonderful to dive into it without preconceptions or expectations. Let me just say that it's about family, the ways they do/don't fail one another, and the lengths to which they will go to protect one another; it's also about hope and resilience. The Puzzle Women is set in two time periods: during the fall of the Berlin Wall and in the present day as the "Puzzle Women" work to reconstruct documents from the thousands of bags of shredded papers left behind by the Stasi when East and West Berlin were reunited.

The publisher's blurb for the book oversimplifies the narrative and doesn't do it justice. Ignore the blurb. Don't read a ton of reviews. Just pick this title up as soon as you can and read!

I received a free electronic ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGally for review purposes. The opinions are my own.
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I was not sure if I should give this book 3.5 or 4⭐ but it's been a few days since I finished it and it's still fresh in my mind so I definitely enjoyed it a lot.

This is my first book from the author and it won't be my last. This was such an intriguing story. Mysterious and emotional.
I especially liked Lotte! Her chapters were so interesting to read. I think the way she acted and described things, made me even more interested in the story. It definitely made me feel closer to the story, closer to the characters. 

It was a devastating but heartwarming story. Intense but interesting. It was a realistic story of love, faith, hope, and survival. I really really enjoyed it!
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A sincere thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley for providing me with an ebook copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

This is not my usual genre,  however I wanted to take the opportunity to read something from outside my norm. And I am glad I did!! Thank you for  opening up my mind to something totally different. Characters were so well developed that I felt as though I knew them. I love when a book draws you into the story and it feels like you are living it with them.
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