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On sale

9th January 2020

Price: £14.99

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780857058485

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“Of all Szabó’s novels, Abigail deserves the widest readership . . . Brilliantly written” TIBOR FISCHER

“Szabó is skilful at creating moments of heart-rending tension, often through exquisite, evocative prose . . . the novel has a devastating power”

A teenage girl’s difficult journey towards adulthood in a time of war.

Of all her novels, Magda Szabó’s Abigail is the most widely read in her native Hungary. Now, fifty years after it was written, it appears for the first time in English, joining Katalin Street and The Door in a loose trilogy about the impact of war on those who have to live with the consequences.

It is late 1943 and Hitler, exasperated by the slowness of his Hungarian ally to act on the “Jewish question” and alarmed by the weakness on his southern flank, is preparing to occupy the country. Foreseeing this, and concerned for his daughter’s safety, a Budapest father decides to send her to a boarding school away from the capital.

A lively, sophisticated, somewhat spoiled teenager, she is not impressed by the reasons she is given, and when the school turns out to be a fiercely Puritanical one in a provincial city a long way from home, she rebels outright. Her superior attitude offends her new classmates and things quickly turn sour.

It is the start of a long and bitter learning curve that will open her eyes to her arrogant blindness to other people’s true motives and feelings. Exposed for the first time to the realities of life for those less privileged than herself, and increasingly confronted by evidence of the more sinister purposes of the war, she learns lessons about the nature of loyalty, courage, sacrifice and love.

Translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix


Her fiction shows the travails of modern Hungarian history from oblique but sharply illuminating angles . . . Szabo summons the cosy, closed world with a lyrical, quicksilver touch that makes the thuggish intrusions of despotic power all the more wrenching
Publisher's Weekly
This infectious coming-of-age novel from Szabó, released in 1970 and translated into English for the first time, is a rollicking delight . . . Szabó pairs the psychological insights reader will recognize from her novel The Door with action more akin to Harry Potter. Gina is one of Szabó's finest creations.
Calvert Journal
Len Rix's translation is empathetic and intuitive, capturing the sense of magic and adventure in the girls' school.
Mika Ross-Southall, Spectator
In English for the first time in a superb translation . . . Szabo's characters are vivid and amusingly authentic . . . Szabo is skilful, too, at creating moments of heart-rending tension, often through exquisite, evocative prose . . . the novel has a devastating power
Tibor Fischer, Daily Telegraph
Of all Szabó's novels, Abigail deserves the widest readership. It's an adventure story, brilliantly written.
Peter Kuras, Times Literary Supplement
Abigail demonstrates her enormous range . . . The pleasure of reading Szabo is partly dependent on her intricate plotting. This is especially true of Abigail . . . Szabo operates with the patience of an analyst allowing her characters to delineate the shape of their own wounds, to direct their own healing.
Sarah Moss
A school story for grownups that is also about our inability or refusal to protect children from history