Magda Szabó 1987
A novel set in Budapest in the 1960s featuring a writer, Magda, and her relationship with Emerence, a cook and housekeeper who lives nearby. The relationship is a strange and challenging one dealing with class, pride, love, trust, priorities and betrayal—in the present and the past. A film based on the book starring Helen Mirren as Emerence was produced by István Szabo (no relation to the author) in 2012.
Arthur Phillips 2002
This was the author’s first novel, and though the title is “Prague,” it is about five expats living in Budapest in 1990 with hopes of someday getting to Prague for its supposedly better life, parties, and money, as far as the main characters are concerned. Hungarian history is a prominent theme in the book, as an older business owner, Imre Horváth, who left Budapest in 1956, is trying to return to Budapest after the fall of Communism and begin again in his home country. The company he once owned there had a long history that began in the 1800s, and the history of the Habsburgs, the 1848 revolution, the World Wars and Soviet occupation is a feature of the story.
Bridge at Andau
James Michener 1957
Less than a year later, Michener’s book tells the story of the events of October 23, 1956, and the days following, when the Hungarian revolution against Soviet occupation of their country took place. By November, with the hoped-for support of the Americans remaining unfulfilled, the Soviet tanks were in the city, and many natives, crushed in their defeat, found their way to a small footbridge on the Austrian border that allowed them to escape control (and the wrath) of the Soviets who would make an example of many who were key figures in the revolution.
The Accidental Empress (2015) and Sisi, Empress on Her Own (2017)
As discussed in the Getting Hungary podcast in our interview with the author, Allison Pataki, these books of historical fiction tell the story of the life and reign of Empress Elizabeth, known affectionately to the Hungarians as Sisi, their Queen, who is reported to have stepped in to help negotiate an agreeable compromise between her husband, Emperor Franz Josef, and the Hungarians, represented by Count Andrassy. Sisi, loved spending time in Hungary, and according to the book’s version of the story, was also enamored with Andrassy, and he with her. This two-part bestselling series of books tells the story of the young Duchess who never expected to be Empress illustrating that the life within the nobility, can be more heartbreaking than glamorous in many ways.