The Puzzle Women by Anna Ellory
Published by Lake Union, 2020
Set in Berlin and switching between 1989 and 1999, this is the story of Rune (Roo) and his younger sister Lotte. It’s also a story of domestic violence, the treatment of children with learning disabilities and the contrast between life in West and East Germany at the time.
The Puzzle Women of the title is the name given to the women (and men) who reconstructed documents shredded by the former East German police and security services. It is with the help of the women that the siblings hope to find out what happened to their Mother.
Some elements were a bit far-fetched (difficult to go into detail without giving away the plot) and at times it was tough going, eg the suffocating feeling that comes across in the extracts from surveillance reports and the (mercifully brief) descriptions of torture. Given the subject matter, it’s hard to say I enjoyed it. However, it was interesting and well written although, to me, the ending seemed a bit rushed compared to the pace of the rest of the book.
It was a shock to be reminded how comparatively recently the Berlin Wall came down and how much change has been achieved. Maybe it’s worth reading for that reminder alone.