Book review: Goodbye to Budapest by Margarita Morris

My sister gave me this book for my birthday in February and I’d packed it away in my suitcase to read during my stay in Budapest this week. Sadly, my travel plans like those of so many others have been cancelled although I know this is hardly a tragedy in the grand scheme of things. One upside of lockdown, however, is having a bit more time to read so I’ve been on a virtual visit to Hungary during a fascinating and terrifying era.

Goodbye to Budapest covers the Cold War period from before Stalin’s death in 1953 to the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. It starts with a fateful ring on the doorbell in the middle of the night. Katalin’s father Marton is taken away by the Secret Police although he’s done nothing wrong. This is what life was like for ordinary people living under the iron fist of Stalinist communism where you could never be sure which of your neighbours to trust. Will she ever see him again?

The death of Stalin brings hope and some changes, and ignites the fuse for the giant student-led demonstration three years later. As young and old take to the streets they’re met with Soviet tanks. Can Katalin and her family, who’ve been through so much already, survive?

I found this a compulsive page turner with themes of love, courage, betrayal and redemption. It was an emotional rollercoaster, told without sentimentality and is clearly well researched. This is an era I’ve wanted to know more about and now I feel that I do. I believed in the characters and the tension was maintained right up to the end.

I also absolutely love the cover.

I’d recommend Goodbye to Budapest to anyone who enjoys Cold War dramas or has an interest in Hungarian history.

It’s published by Landmark and available here:


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