Better Off Read is a book club collaboration between The Bookshop and The Porch, focusing on books that you'll definitely be better off having read.
Abigail, the story of a headstrong teenager growing up during World War II, is the most beloved of Magda Szabó’s books in her native Hungary. Gina is the only child of a general, a widower who has long been happy to spoil his bright and willful daughter. Gina is devastated when the general tells her that he must go away on a mission and that he will be sending her to boarding school in the country. She is even more aghast at the grim religious institution to which she soon finds herself consigned. She fights with her fellow students, she rebels against her teachers, finds herself completely ostracized, and runs away. Caught and brought back, there is nothing for Gina to do except entrust her fate to the legendary Abigail, as the classical statue of a woman with an urn that stands on the school’s grounds has come to be called. If you’re in trouble, it’s said, leave a message with Abigail and help will be on the way. And for Gina, who is in much deeper trouble than she could possibly suspect, a life-changing adventure is only beginning.
There is something of Jane Austen in this story of the deceptiveness of appearances; fans of J.K. Rowling are sure to enjoy Szabó’s picture of irreverent students, eccentric teachers, and boarding-school life. Above all, however, Abigail is a thrilling tale of suspense.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
“The English edition of Abigail is as welcome as it is overdue. Len Rix’s translation is deft, but Szabo’s frank, conversational prose takes a back seat to her sinuous plotting: The novel unspools its secrets over many pages, and the resulting tour de force is taut with suspense.”—Becca Rothfeld, The New York Times Book Review
“A tense, intimate narrative that brilliantly depicts youthful innocence ensnared by lethal menace. . . . Szabó the magician reveals, for an instant, time, history and human folly, all glimpsed through a child’s clear eyes.”—Anna Mundow, The Wall Street Journal
“This infectious coming-of-age novel from Szabó, released in 1970 and translated into English for the first time, is a rollicking delight. Gina Vitay, the headstrong, spoiled lead, is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Emma. . . . Szabó pairs the psychological insights reader will recognize from her novel The Door with action more akin to Harry Potter. Gina is one of Szabó’s finest creations.”--Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Sequestered at a boarding school during World War II, a rebellious teenager confronts secrets, lies, and danger. . . . Urgent moral questions underlie a captivating mystery.”--Kirkus
Better Off Read is a book club with an added twist: an optional writing exercise for interested participants to complete before the event. Here’s the prompt: Choose a sentence from the book and use it as a springboard to write about whatever you want. See where it takes you! Again, this part is completely optional, and those who wish may share what they’ve written at the end of the meeting.
When: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 5:30 to 6:30ish pm
Where: The Bookshop (1043 West Eastland Ave.)
How Much: $18 + tax. Each participant will receive one paperback copy of Abigail, available for pickup at the shop. Wine and treats will be served, and participants will also receive 10% off purchases at The Bookshop the day of the event.
This event is full! Please stay tuned for our next Better Off Read gathering, and remember that newsletter subscribers get first dibs on spots.
Previous BETTER OFF READ Books
The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan (1/19/20)
After the Winter by Guadalupe Nettel (11/17/19)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (9/15/19)
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (7/28/19)
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (5/19/19)
In the Distance by Hernan Diaz (3/24/19)
Improvement by Joan Silber (1/20/19)
Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ (11/18/18)
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (9/16/18)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (7/22/18)
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell (5/20/18)
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (3/18 & 25/18)
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (1/7 & 14/18)
Broken River by J. Robert Lennon (10/22/17)
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (8/6/17)
Stoner by John Williams (5/21/17)
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (3/19/17)
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton (1/22/17)
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (10/30/16)
Better Off Read is a collaboration between The Bookshop and The Porch, Nashville’s independent center for writing.