The Songs We Hide - a book by Connie Hampton Connally

From Coffeetown Press

A new novel set in Cold War Hungary



Debut novel inspired by the music and turbulent history of twentieth-century Hungary  

Because Connie Hampton Connally writes about 1950s Hungary with such vivid realism, readers often assume she is Hungarian. While Connally is not of Hungarian descent, she IS passionate about the country and its history. Connally’s interest in Hungary’s turbulent past grew out of her love of music. Says Connally, “Through music, I discovered the story of Zoltán Kodály,  a  twentieth-century Hungarian composer who spread music in his nation despite totalitarianism and two world wars. Kodaly’s example gripped me. What would it be like to offer beauty in a milieu of crushing fear?” 

Connally began researching Hungary, and the tense national narrative coupled with the poignant stories of its people led her to write the stunning debut novel,  THE  SONGS  WE  HIDE (Coffeetown Press Trade Paperback Original/A Divison of Epicenter Press; May 2018; $16.95). Connally’s novel has been compared to the award-winning book, EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid as well as the musical love story, ONCE, because Connally deftly intertwines the theme of love amid political unrest with the passion that is ignited by music.  

In communist Hungary, a peasant loses his land, a young mother loses her baby’s father, and both are scared into silence—until music brings them together to face agonizing challenges.  

In  1951,  a grim hush has settled over Hungary.  After a lost war and a brutal transition to communism, the people 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 shut because silence is the only safety they know.   

They soon learn they share a bond far more meaningful than their fear. When Katalin starts giving Péter voice lessons, they take an intrepid step out of hiding by making music together. Little by little, they tell each other what they cannot tell others. In their bond of trust, they find relief and unexpected happiness. 

As harsh reality assaults them again, Péter and Katalin learn to carve dignity and beauty out of pain.  



Connie Hampton Connally has written a historical novel set in communist Hungary. The novel is titled The Songs We Hide and is being released by Coffeetown Press May 1. The Songs We Hide is a beautifully written, well-researched page-turner. 

Though Ms. Connally is American, her spirit, mind, and soul took on a true Hungarian character. She “became” a Hungarian and can think like one. I could not put the book down. She intertwines the theme of love at the time of political unrest with her passion for Hungarian music. The story flows and the characters live.  THE SONGS WE HIDE fills a great gap in American literature. The era Ms. Connally describes is totally “out of the experience” for Americans, as the situation in the story shows:

In Communist Hungary, a peasant loses his land, a young mother loses her baby’s father, and both are scared into silence—until music brings them together to face agonizing challenges. In 1951, a grim hush has settled over Hungary. After a lost war and a brutal transition to Communism, the people 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. 

For young English-speaking Hungarians, as well as their parents, this is a revealing book. For 45 years these historical facts were not taught in schools in Communist countries. Then teachers were supposed to teach what they have never learned. While the grandparents will say, what they are saying about my books in both here and in Hungary:  “Finally, someone wrote the truth. This was my life, exactly.” They thank me, as they will Connie, for writing what happened to them so their descendants should know… 

For us, survivors of both extreme regimes, namely Nazism and Communism, it is crucial that coming generations should understand: extreme Left and extreme Right are equally horrific. Thank you, Ms. Connally, for a superb job!

Helen M. Szablya, Hon. Consul General Emerita of Hungary

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Connie Hampton Connally has loved music and the written word all her life. She has spent most of her adult years working in these two fields, teaching high school  English and elementary school music, working as an editor, and publishing magazine stories and newspaper articles. She holds a BA in English from the University of Washington and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. THE SONGS WE HIDE is her debut novel. Connie and her husband maketheir home in Tacoma, Washington. Find her on the web at www.conniehamptonconnally.com.

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