A cult coming-of-age novel by the author of THE DOOR and KATALIN STREET.
Magda Szabo’s Abigail is the most widely read of all her novels in her native Hungary. Now, fifty years after its original publication, it appears in English for the first time.
Gina, the only child of a widowed general, lives a cosseted and carefree existence in Budapest, even in the shadow of the Second World War. When the general sends her to girls’ boarding school in Debrecen, in the east of the country, she is devastated. Her belongings are taken away on arrival, and she is initiated into the peculiar rites of her peers. She soon finds herself ostracized and, desperately unhappy, tries to escape.
When brought back to the school, all she can do is entrust her fate to the legendary and mysterious Abigail, a statue of a woman in the school grounds, to whom the pupils confide their troubles in handwritten messages. But who is the mystifying figure behind Abigail, who wishes her well? Eventually Gina achieves hard-won solidarity in a restrictive environment, and begins to discover her place in the world.
Rich in imagery, and with Gina’s internal world beautifully realised, Abigail is a tale of suspense and revelation in a shifting world where things are often not quite as they first seem.
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