A novel set in Cold War Hungary
Forthcoming from Coffeetown Press, May 2018
In 1951, a grim hush has settled over Hungary. After a lost war and a brutal transition to communism, Hungarians live under constant threat of blacklisting, property confiscation, arrest, imprisonment and worse. In this milieu of dread, the best land of Péter Benedek’s peasant family is seized and his life upended. Moving to Budapest for a manual labor job, Péter meets Katalin Varga, an unwed mother whose baby’s father has vanished, most likely at the hands of the secret police. Both Péter and Katalin keep their heads down and their mouths clamped shut, because silence is the only safety they know.
The two have something in common besides fear: they are singers whose very natures make the silence unbearable. When Katalin starts giving Péter voice lessons, they take an intrepid step out of hiding. Little by little they tell each other what they cannot tell others. In their bond of trust, they find relief and unexpected happiness.
Yet the hurts and threats in their lives remain, waiting. As harsh reality assaults them again, is hope even possible? Facing their hardest trials yet, Péter and Katalin learn to carve dignity and beauty out of pain.
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Advance Praise for The Songs We Hide
Like a pristine blossom in a devastated landscape, The Songs We Hide affirms the power of beauty and art in the midst of oppression. Connally convincingly recreates 1950’s Hungary with a story as timeless as love.—Bruce Holland Rogers, author of The Keyhole Opera, Fulbright Professor to Hungary
Connie Hampton Connally’s historical novel The Songs We Hide is a beautifully written, well-researched page turner. I simply could not put the book down. The Songs We Hide fills a great gap in American literature, describing a horrific era that is out of the experience of most Americans. —Helen M. Szablya, Hon. Consul Emerita of Hungary
This is a beautiful and haunting book. . . . [Connally] portrays the frightening reach of petty tyranny as well as the surprising power of simple acts of kindness . . .—Eric O. Jacobsen, author of The Space Between: A Christian Engagement With the Built Environment
The Songs We Hide is a tender triumph: a book about the insidiousness of oppression, the strength of shyness, . . . of choosing risk wisely. . . . I loved Peter and Katalin from the get go. They’ll stay with me for a long time.—Ana Maria Spagna, author of Uplake: Restless Essays of Coming and Going
In The Songs We Hide Connie Hampton Connally evokes stunning emotions . . . the reader will wonder, and hope — Can people withstand, can they be stronger than the hatred and betrayal around them?—Wendy Kendall, sydicated columnist
Who can you trust when your own government betrays you? Connie Hampton Connally takes us into Hungary shortly after World War II and the bonds that form when old rules no longer apply. Meticulously researched and written, The Songs We Hide brings us face to face with this little explored chapter of history . . . —Kathleen Alcala, author of Spirits of the Ordinary