Ailsa Kay lays out the literary equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle in Under Budapest, bringing into stark relief the triumphs, calamities, and desperation of two North American Hungarian families and those whose lives they’ve touched.
There’s Agnes and Tibor, mother and son, travelling to Hungary for reasons they keep to themselves, he to recover from a disastrous love affair, she to search for a sister gone missing during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. There’s Janos, a self-styled player and petty thug, who schemes to make it rich in post-communist Hungary. And there’s Gyula and Zsofi, caught up in a revolution that will change the face of Hungary forever. Their lives are all connected by a conflagration of events: the legacy of wartime violence, past allegiances, long-buried rivalries, and secrets from the past.
Through riveting narratives that spring back and forth through time, Under Budapest captures the drama and ravages of the Hungarian Revolution and the eras that followed. A dark ode to memory, Kay’s intimate spectacle demonstrates that actions have consequences, that the past cannot be shaken, that all events can carry the possibility of repercussion.