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Abigail (1970)

by Magda Szabó

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2721781,087 (4.34)41
Fourteen-year-old Gina, the spoiled daughter of a Hungarian general, rails against being sent to boarding school far from Budapest when war breaks out, but finds help in a statue of Abigail and her new "sisters."
  1. 00
    And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle (foggidawn)
  2. 00
    The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Dilara86)
    Dilara86: One is speculative fiction, the other isn't, but they both take place in a girls-only school at a time of war/unrest and describe female microcosms, friendships between teenage girls, ambiguous authority figures, and young girls who take risks.

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» See also 41 mentions

English (16)  Italian (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Nem tudom pontosan, hogy történt, de nekem ez a történet idáig minden formájában kimaradt. Biztosan más lett volna tizenévesen olvasni, költözés után, „ellenséges környezetben” jól is jött volna, kár, hogy nem nyomta senki a kezembe. Egyetlen részletet spoilereztek el nekem (csúnyán nézek, tudod, ki vagy ;)), de nem a lényeget. Az elég hamar világos volt felnőtt fejjel, ki a két fő emberünk, csak az nem, hogy igazából egy ember meg a segítője. Bár szerintem kár egyvalakit megnevezni, amikor csapatmunka, na mindegy, tény, nem tudtam, ki Abigél :). Remekül megírt könyv, hajnalba nyúlóan olvastam (miéééért nem nyomta valaki a kezembe tizenévesen?). Csak azért tettem félre majd' egy évre, mert amikor tavaly belekezdtem, iszonyúan nyomasztott az a sivárság, a magány sötétsége, hidegsége, ami a történet elején fogadja a főszereplőt. Túl jól van megírva, nem bírtam a sajátom mellé még az övét is elviselni. Hova is dicsérjem még, 2100 csillagozás és 95% mellett*? Akinek még nem volt szerencséje hozzá, annak annyit: felnőttként is érdemes pótolni.
*a molyon ( )
  blueisthenewpink | Jul 2, 2022 |
Gina Vitay is the 14 yr old daughter of a Hungarian General during WWII. The General hides her in a religious boarding school as far as possible from where he is planning a Hungarian resistance. The story though is about Gina's coming of age far too soon because of her father's work. She struggles with the authoritarian school, social relationships and eventually being chased by her father's military foes. Through her struggles she receives advice and assistance from other resistance fighters through a message portal run through a garden statue called Abigail. Book is well written, though I wish there could have been an epilog ending that had a future Gina looking back at the school to tell us what happened to some of the important characters in the story. ( )
  rayski | Feb 16, 2022 |
Engaging, if uneven, story of Gina, a privileged teenaged girl consigned without explanation to a rigid, forbidding religious girls' boarding school by her beloved father as World War II rumbles around them in Hungary. Every single aspect of the girls' lives is fiercely controlled, from their hair braids and underwear, to the content of their consored letters. Gina is utterly miserable. When she impulsively betrays a secret and silly game played by her classmates, they turn on her and her life is even more wretched. Szabo deftly stages the intense, "excitable," changeable, and threatening emotions and alliances in a closed environment seething with adolescent impulses, tears, hysterics, giggles, crushes and cruelty. Anyone who remembers being a teenaged girl will recognize them. Ignore the ill-advised jacket copy regarding J.K. Rowling (Really, NYRB??).

Abigail is a statue in the garden, reputed to bring help and comfort to those at the end of their tethers. Secret messages are left and received, dire situations resolved or mitigated. Who is Abigail, really? The silent deaconess Susanna? The flamboyant, brash former student, now a middle-aged widow who throws great parties? The handsome, Teutonic young male teacher all the girls are in love with? No one really wants to know, actually. At this point, the narrative slows to a bit of a slog through more adolescent angst, conflict, school outings and shunnings. Much eating (or refusal) of pastries occurs.

It's only when the war finally insinuates itself into the protective shell of the school that the story picks up power again. A mysterious dissident is posting anti-war messages in public places. Abigail enlists Gina in the passage of life-saving documents. Her father disappears; her old crush - a handsome young soldier - reappears to rescue her, it seems. The reader knows and sees much more than Gina does. (I had the real Abigail pegged the minute the character was introduced, while Gina is hopelessly wrong about it till the end.) This makes it sound more of a "thriller" than it is, but we've come to care for Gina and the other girls; to have some muted sympathy for the straitlaced Susanna; to look a little askance at Mr Handsome Teacher Dude, and wonder exactly where the short-tempered, bombastic director's sympathies may actually lie.

A nicely produced, smoothly translated novel that deserves the wider readership that NYRB brings it. ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
“She was oppressed by a consciousness of living in a world of strangers”

-- review soon --

Around the year in 52 books challenge notes:
#32. A book whose cover shows more than 2 people

Ultimate Popsugar reading challenge notes:
#5. A dark academia book ( )
  Linda_Louise | Jan 20, 2021 |
Magda Szabo's Abigail is excellent. I think I may love it even more than The Door. I read the recent translation by Len Rix for NYRB. Highly recommended.

If you've read Elio Vittorini's In Sicily, it's that type of WWII novel but with women coming of age. The war is secret, in a way. People have to be very circumspect about how they talk about it. The first quarter or so, Gina doesn't even know why she's going to boarding school. The moment when she learns, her instant coming of age, is rendered so powerfully. The push and pull of female friendship amid the push and pull of government propaganda has never been done better than by Szabo. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Dec 3, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Magda Szabóprimary authorall editionscalculated
Engl, GézaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engl, HenrietteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Philippe, ChantalTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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A változás, ami életében bekövetkezett, annyi mindentől megfosztotta, mintha bomba pusztított volna az otthonában.
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Fourteen-year-old Gina, the spoiled daughter of a Hungarian general, rails against being sent to boarding school far from Budapest when war breaks out, but finds help in a statue of Abigail and her new "sisters."

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