The Puppet Maker's Daughter

A startling and emotional WWII novel

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Pub Date 27 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 01 Mar 2024

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Hungary 1944. The war comes late to Budapest. Nineteen-year-old Marika, forced out of nursing school, believes she and her Jewish family will remain safe, even as Nazi soldiers fill their cobbled streets. With Russians to their east, the Allies to their west, everyone assumes the war is nearly over. Her father, once a prominent engineer, returns to his passion for puppet making. Soon, she is pulled into the resistance to rescue orphans and displaced Jews while keeping her family one step ahead of Eichmann’s extermination plans.

As the world turns dark around her, the fanatical Arrow Cross Party, a ruthless group that listens to no one including the Germans, unleashes a killing spree on the remaining Jews of Europe. One day, as peril intensifies, she must make a decision that puts her in extreme danger to save herself, her family, and the orphans she’s sheltered.

Will she regret that moment for the rest of her life?

This a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of family even if the members are patched together with remnants of other shattered lives.

Hungary 1944. The war comes late to Budapest. Nineteen-year-old Marika, forced out of nursing school, believes she and her Jewish family will remain safe, even as Nazi soldiers fill their cobbled...

Advance Praise

"What makes this novel different is its depiction of the way the local population turned on their neighbours and the murders carried out by the Hungarian Fascist party, the Arrow Cross..."" Alan Bardos, reviewer for The Historical Novel Society"

"What makes this novel different is its depiction of the way the local population turned on their neighbours and the murders carried out by the Hungarian Fascist party, the Arrow Cross..."" Alan...

Available Editions

ISBN 9798985322200
PRICE $3.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 15 members

Featured Reviews

“The Puppet Maker’s Daughter” is a historical fiction WWII book by Karla M. Jay. Ms. Jay has done, once again, a lot of research and it shows. This book follows the plight of Jews in Hungary during the later part of WWII - starting about March 1944 until their liberation. There’s a follow-up about two decades later. I found this book a bit slow with a lot of background information about the main family, which at times felt a bit unnecessary. This book’s action picks up toward the later third. What I found interesting was how, for the most part, Hungary was left alone thanks to the person in charge for so long. What I found heartbreaking were the sections about Sister Sara, who worked so hard to save as many children as she could. I would recommend this book to those who are interested in learning more about Hungary during WWII. This book doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, but it portrays them in a thoughtful way.

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As a newcomer to Karla M. Jay's work, I was fortunate enough to dive into "The Puppet Maker's Daughter" with an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley – and what a captivating journey it was!

In this novel, Jay skillfully unveils lesser-known narratives from the tumultuous era of World War II and the Holocaust. From the very first page, I found myself ensnared in a web of terror, deprivation, and uncertainty.

One of the most striking aspects of Jay's storytelling is her use of flavoured language, painting vivid and poignant descriptions of Budapest that transported me straight into the heart of the city's turmoil.

It is quite outstanding how the author crafts an atmosphere of pervasive distrust, where no one can be trusted completely. Through her evocative prose, Jay creates a sense of unease, immersing readers in a world where danger lurks around every corner.

It was also heartbreaking to see how effortlessly manipulation can take root in the hearts and minds of even the most steadfast individuals. As alliances shift and loyalties are tested, characters find themselves ensnared in a web of deceit and deception, unable to discern friend from foe amidst the chaos of war-torn Budapest.

“Memories hold us in place and will surely outlast our daily fears. What else could we cherish more than these as we all move toward uncertainty?”

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As I closed the last page of this remarkable book, my heart felt full and my spirit was lifted. Marika's story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, the power of hope, and the enduring strength of love and compassion. Set against the backdrop of war-torn Budapest, this book masterfully weaves together historical accuracy with a gripping narrative that captivated me from start to finish.

I was drawn into Marika's world, feeling her fears, her doubts, and her triumphs as if they were my own. Her courage and determination to protect her family and the orphans she sheltered left me in awe. The way the author brought the characters to life, highlighting their humanity and vulnerability, reminded me of the best of humanity.

This book is more than just a historical fiction novel – it's a tribute to the unsung heroes of history, a reminder of the power of ordinary people to make a difference in the face of extraordinary evil. It's a story that will stay with me for a long time, inspiring me to hold on to hope and empathy, even in the darkest of times. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a heartwarming and uplifting read.

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Solidly researched this was a solid read. I personally found some of it difficult to process and think about, but overall, it was a great novel that left me with a lot of lingering thoughts about a time in human history that should never have been.
The characters were all very compelling, and Marika's path dramatically changing from nursing school left a lot of opportunities for the story to go in various directions, which I thought was handled skilfully, and the plight of her orphan charges was handled sensitively.
I think that there were a few areas I struggled with, but that could be because I do not understand extremism except as a concept, but this ave me more insight to what people face and for that, I thank the author.

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Historical fiction at its finest. Realistic and relatable characters. Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book

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Decided to give this book 4 from 5 stars! I really love the ending, especially those who have 'found family' trope.

But, ofc it has its downsides too. I gotta spill the tea here:

1) Marika feels too detached from the reality presented in the book. When discussing the news, it seemed as if she were an outsider, not the MC. And she is more like a writer or someone from today's century discussing World War history. Her POV comes off as too knowing-it-all and doesn't align with what should be happening in the book's plot.

2) Imho, Marika is an unreliable narrator. Her narration jumps from A to H and then to X almost instantly, causing confusion for the reader.

3) The beginning of the book is a bit sleep-inducing, to be honest. 🥱🥱 Too much information dump!

On the bright side:

1) As mentioned earlier, I really liked the ending! It brought a warm touch to the overall emotional tone. You could categorize this book as angst with a happy ending (?)

2) The plot and its suspense were surprising, and I found myself deeply engaged with the thrilling aspects. Pretty cool!

3) I gained a lot of information from this book, and it turned out to be different from my initial expectations.

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It's 1944. Marika lives with her family in Budapest, so far escaping the worst of the persecution faced by Jews and others across Europe. Over the next 10 months, though, everything changes.

Wow. I'm actually almost lost for words having finished this.
I found this very slow at first. The story takes you through Marika and her family's every day life in Budapest, starting in 1944. It felt like there was very little buildup to anything. But I became so drawn in without even realising it. The very gradual buildup to full German occupation of Budapest reflects how it must have been at the time, with everything seeming normal until suddenly you realise how much has changed, and that everything is not normal.
The story does pick up as Marika becomes more involved in the Resistance and the situation deteriorates further, but looking back it was those first 150 or so pages that drew me in until I couldn't stop reading.
This was not an easy read. I didn't know the extent of what happened in Hungary during the war, and the fact this happened so close to the end of the war is heartbreaking. This was a deeply emotional read, and the author did a fantastic job of demonstrating the fear and desperation felt by many, as well as the strings of hope that bound them to all keep fighting.

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Remarkable book! The dark story of Budapest during WWII was absolutely fascinating. The author’s characters were vivid and clearly told the story of the cruelty of the Nazis, and later the savagery of the Arrow Cross. The story of those people allowed me to see their suffering up close so that I could understand.

The author also had an amazing gift in her ability to add historical facts in a way that did not delay the progress of the story. I learned so much, and am very grateful to have read it. I look forward to more of her writing over the years.

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"The Puppet Maker's Daughter" by Karla M. Jay is an emotionally compelling novel set in Hungary in 1944 during the tumultuous times of World War II. As a reader, I was immediately drawn into the story of nineteen-year-old Marika and her Jewish family as they navigate the increasing dangers of Nazi occupation in Budapest.
The author, Karla M. Jay, skilfully weaves together a narrative of resilience, family bonds, and the harsh realities of war. Through Marika's eyes, we witness the horrors of the Arrow Cross Party's ruthless actions against the Jewish population and the lengths to which individuals must go to protect their loved ones and those in need.
While I initially found it challenging to emotionally connect with the main character, Marika, the depth of historical detail and the portrayal of real, documented events added a poignant layer to the narrative. The author's thorough research shines through in the novel, shedding light on a lesser-known aspect of the Holocaust and the Hungarian Jewish population's struggles during this dark period of history.
The pacing of the story may be slow at times, particularly in the detailed background information about the main family, but the narrative gains momentum towards the latter part of the book. The focus on Sister Sara's courageous efforts to save children amidst the chaos of war provides a touching and heartbreaking subplot that underscores the human capacity for compassion and sacrifice.
Overall, "The Puppet Maker's Daughter" is a thought-provoking historical fiction novel that delves into the complexities of wartime survival, moral dilemmas, and the

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Thank you NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this book ahead of time in exchange for a review. You should read it!

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This might be one of the most important books I’ve read. The Puppet Maker’s Daughter is the story of a young Hungarian nurse, Marika, and what she and so many Hungarian Jews experienced in 1944. They almost survived World War II unscathed when a Nazi trying to impress Hitler and the Arrow Cross Party tried to annihilate (and almost succeed) all Hungarian Jews.

I’ve read a lot of World War II novels over the years, but this is the first I can remember learning about the Arrow Cross Party. It was shocking and terrifying to see what can happen when a group of people is “othered” enough. Their victims included Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, pacifists, nuns, and Christian citizens who tried to help their neighbors. As the author’s note stated, “What arose was collective violence against those who were labelled ‘not us.’” In today’s environment of identity politics, this is an important story to discover.

What I Loved:
- How much history I learned. I was introduced to people, places, and events I had never heard of before.
- The characters. I appreciated how many real people were characters in the novel and how the fictional characters “could have” existed.

What I Didn’t Love:
- The dialogue and prose in the first couple of chapters felt forced compared to the test of the book.
- I wish the author would have delved into Marika’s feelings more, although maybe that would have made it heartbreakingly unreadable.

Thank you to NetGalley and the author for a digital access to this book in exchange for my honest review. This represents my honest opinion. I’m grateful for the way The Puppet Maker’s Daughter changed me.

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Overall a great book. Not really what I expected but loved it. I love the historical tie in. Can't wait to read more of Karla M. Jay's books!!

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