The Memory Book

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More About This Title The Memory Book


On a short vacation to Budapest, the author finds a small leather book in an antique store. Opening it she discovers pages filled with watercolors, drawings, and messages. The book turns out to be a memory book—a keepsake album kept by Central European girls at the turn of the twentieth century in which to record advice and remember special events. This one contains evergreen truisms and aphorisms written to the book’s owner when she visited places few Americans know. Curiosity and concern propel the author on a multi-year journey into the heart of Old Europe and deep into centuries of art, history, and war. The book lives, the girl lives on, and its message of love finds meaning in our time.


Linda Fischer is a global traveler with a passion for literature, languages, and the people she encounters along the way. A devoted student of the Hungarian culture, she spent nine years traveling and researching The Memory Book. This is her first book.



Part 1

Chapter 1: Destination: Eastern Europe

Chapter 2: Discovery in Buda

Chapter 3: Back Home

Chapter 4: Living with a Mystery

Chapter 5: Hunting and Pecking

Chapter 6: Translating

Chapter 7: Magyar Beauty

Chapter 8: Eötvös

Chapter 9: An Era of War

Chapter 10: Incubating

Part 2

Chapter 11: Planning Our Return

Chapter 12: Scoping Out the Problem

Chapter 13: Forging Ties

Chapter 14: Back in Budapest

Chapter 15: The Ancient City of Pécs

Chapter 16: All Aboard to Várad

Chapter 17: Várad Shower

Chapter 18: Kopjafa, the Carved Biography

Chapter 19: Earthquake, Fire, and Flood

Chapter 20: The Black Eagle

Chapter 21: The Art Colony

Part 3

Chapter 22: New York City

Chapter 23: The Hungarian Language

Chapter 24: The Hungarian Culture

Chapter 25: New Year New Options

Chapter 26: Searching the Archives in Szolnok

Chapter 27: Winter Time

Chapter 28: Life Goes On

Chapter 29: The Genealogist

Chapter 30: Closing In on Things

Part 4

Chapter 31: Vienna in a New Light

Chapter 32: Heading to the Outskirts of a Former Empire

Chapter 33: Novska

Chapter 34: More Traveling

Chapter 35: Finding Amálka

Chapter 36: Postscript


Supplement 1: The Morgan Library

Supplement 2: Poetry Snippets

Supplement 3: Kremšnita Recipe





“As a memoirist, Fischer deftly fills the roles of both author and protagonist as she learns about the life of a young Austro-Hungarian girl. . . . This book is a compelling read for lovers of history, genealogy, and nostalgic artifacts...”
—Melissa Wuske, Foreword Reviews (Read the full review here)

“Fischer intersperses entries from the memory book with her own impressions of Hungary as she retraces Amálka’s life and offers her own very engaging look at modern Hungary, its food, culture, and folklore.”
—Vanessa Bush, Booklist

“What a formidable achievement this book represents. There is a palpable pulse-a heartbeat when one reads it. The author’s passion is apparent, and so too, is her knowledge. The research is mightily impressive.”
—Esther Bushell, Book Group Facilitator and Commentator, Literary Matters

“Last summer I traveled and took Eat, Pray, Love. This summer I’d take this one. It’s about connections and community, time travel in the best of ways.”
—Holly Messitt, Co-Editor, New American Contemporary Literature for a Changing Society

“Wow — is one word I can use to describe [The Memory Book]. What a fascinating story. I must admit, even I learned a few things from the book, and I was born and raised in Budapest. The intricate details of the places they traveled to and shops they were in, it was like, I was there. . . . it was truly an uplifting pleasure to read it.”
—Susan Lengyel-McLoughlin, Secretary, Hungarian Freedom Fighters Federation, Washington, DC

“Of the many ways I have seen people embark to explore the wonderful cultural heritage and magical atmosphere of my homeland and our neighbors, Linda’s is probably one of the most imaginative and rewarding. And not just rewarding for her, but also for anyone who reads this fascinating and educational narrative. I am sure it will be a call to adventure that will inspire many to explore the world as she did, especially the part of the world that she did, the countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire: Hungary and her neighbors.”
—Magdolna Fekete, Director, Hungarian National Tourist Office, New York

“A fascinating personal journey starting with the chance discovery of a young lady’s ‘memory book’ in a Budapest bookshop. Linda Fischer delves into her own roots by decoding the fin-de-siècle treasure with the help of modern-day migrants in New York City, and the old-world inhabitants of former Austro-Hungary.”
—Marijana Dworska, Owner, Dworski Books, Hay-on-Wye, United Kingdom

“Reading Ms. Fischer’s non-fiction account of an adventure to locate the identity of a girl in a memory book keeps one engaged and eager to find any clues to the young girl’s identity. Ms. Fischer’s presentation of the memory book is on three tiers. One is the actual account of her travels to the Hungary of today and other countries which once belonged to the Austo-Hungarian Empire.

“The second is the interweaving of factual accounts from history and quotes from literary giants which help in the search. The third is segregated sections which inform the reader to a greater degree of the places or persons who are mentioned in the text.

“As a woman of Hungarian birthrite, it was a return trip in spirit and evoked vivid memories and emotions which still tie me to the small nation of Hungary.”
—Éva Szabó, President, Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society, Cleveland, Ohio

“If you’ve ever been transfixed by a one-of-a-kind item found in an antique shop, drawn into a world far from your own, wondering what kind of juicy stories that item could share, then ‘The Memory Book: One Woman’s Self-Discovery in the Mist of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’ by Linda Fischer is your kind of story.

“It is a compelling read for anyone who loves history, culture, literature or the region — or has ever before been consumed by an obsessive quest.

“More than this, Fischer provides a unique way of discovering a land that to you may be very foreign or all-too-familiar. It allows the reader to view the region, its people and its culture through the eyes of a young, curious girl or through those of a seasoned, inquisitive traveler.

“This is not your average memoir or travelogue; it is an engrossing experience that allows you to discover the lives of two women — divided by a century and yet intertwined in their desire to share their memories.

“Fischer’s ‘The Memory Book’ offers a welcome modern addition to this tradition, admittedly for an adult audience. Her passion for the history, culture, literature and people of the region shine through and readers will find themselves illuminated through her own experiences. While sharing in this once-popular pastime for girls is sure to appeal more to the female-oriented ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ audience, there is enough insight, intelligence, and introspection to keep even the most knowledgeable Hungarophiles interested.

“So if you're looking for the Austro-Hungarian equivalent to ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, an engrossing summer travel companion or an interesting primer into turn-of-the-century Austro-Hungary, pick up a copy of Fischer’s ‘Memory Book’. Or you could pop into an antique story and begin your own nine-year journey...

“4 out of 5 stars [5 out of 5 stars for women]”
— Lee Reaney, The Budapest Times, Budapest, Hungary