Book Review: Under Budapest, by Ailsa Kay


Under Budapest
By Ailsa Kay
Goose Lane Editions
256 pp; $19.99

In 2010, as Budapest simmers with pre-election nationalism, a Roma is murdered, and a human head is found on Gellert Hill. In 1956, a sister disappears in the revolution that so briefly captures the attention of the world. All that seems to unite these events is the possibility that, in the rumoured tunnels under Budapest, lies the answer.

A literary equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle, Under Budapest carves out the conquests, calamities, and anguish of two North American Hungarian families and those whose lives they’ve touched.

Agnes and Tibor, mother and son, travel to Hungary for reasons they keep to themselves; he to recover from a disastrous love affair, she to discover what happened to the sister who vanished. Janos, self-styled player and petty criminal, schemes to make it rich in post-Communist Hungary. Gyula and Zsofi get caught up in the heady freedom of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Their lives are connected in a conflagration of events: the legacy of wartime violence and secrets from the past.

At once a probing family drama, sterling crime thriller, and hypnotic ode to memory’s power, Ailsa Kay’s intimate spectacle demonstrates that the past is never far from the surface, and the stories we tell to make sense of it carry their own repercussions.

Published by Goose Lane Editions on April 09, 2013. Order at Or, even better, wander down to your local independent bookseller, and ask for it.

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