Magda Szabó: Abigél (Abigail)

The latest edition to my website is Magda Szabó‘s Abigél (Abigail). This first appeared in Hungary fifty years ago where it has been Szabó’s most popular novel. It is set in 1943-44 and tells the story of the fourteen-fifteen year old Georgina (Gina) Vitay. Her mother died when she was two and she has been brought up by her father, a military general and a French governess. He suddenly decides to send the governess back to France, as Hungary and France are at war and Gina to a boarding school in a remote part of Hungary. Much of the story is set there and deals with her problems fitting in to a conventional, strict and religious school but also the fallout from the war and the reasons her father finally gives her for sending her there. There is clearly opposition in the town and, perhaps, in the school to the conduct of the war and the alliance with and subsequent occupation by the Germans and all of this has an effect on Gina. It is a very well-written book, as we follow Gina’s travails both with her classmates and the staff as well as what is happening in the outside world.

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