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The Betrayal [Hardcover]

Helen Dunmore
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 April 2010
Leningrad in 1952 is a city recovering from war, where Andrei, a young hospital doctor and Anna, a nursery school teacher, are forging a life together. Summers at the dacha, preparations for the hospital ball, work and the care of sixteen year old Kolya fill their minds. They try hard to avoid coming to the attention of the authorities, but even so their private happiness is precarious. Stalin is still in power, and the Ministry for State Security has new targets in its sights. When Andrei has to treat the seriously ill child of a senior secret police officer, Volkov, he finds himself and his family caught in an impossible game of life and death - for in a land ruled by whispers and watchfulness, betrayal can come from those closest to you. A gripping and deeply moving portrait of life in post-war Soviet Russia, "The Betrayal" brilliantly shows the epic struggle of ordinary people to survive in a time of violence and terror.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Fig Tree; Third Printing edition (29 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905490593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905490592
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Enthralling. Emotionally gripping . . . ordinary people struggling against a city's beautiful indifference, and clinging on for dear life (Daily Telegraph)

Beautifully crafted, gripping, moving, enlightening. Sure to be one of the best historical novels of the year (Time Out)

Scrupulous, pitch-perfect. With heart-pounding force, Dunmore builds up a double narrative of suspense (Sunday Times)

Magnificent, brave, tender . . . with a unique gift for immersing the reader in the taste, smell and fear of a story (Independent on Sunday)

A masterpiece. An extraordinarily powerful evocation of a time of unimaginable fear. We defy you to read it without a pounding heart and a lump in your throat (Grazia)

A beautifully written and deeply moving story about fear, loss, love and honesty amid the demented lies of Stalin's last days. I literally could not put it down (Antony Beevor)

Dunmore chillingly evokes the atmosphere of Soviet suspicion, where whispered rumours and petty grievances metastasise into lies and denunciation. A gripping read (Daily Mail)

Meticulous, clever, eloquent. An absorbing and thoughtful tale of good people in hard times (Guardian)

A remarkably feeling, nuanced novel that satisfies the head as well as the heart. This does not read like a retelling of history, but like a draught of real life. With her seemingly small canvas, Dunmore has created a universe (Sunday Herald)

Dunmore's genius lies in her ability to convey the strange Soviet atmosphere of these very Soviet stories using the most subtle of clues (Spectator)

Storytelling on a grand scale (The Times)

About the Author

Helen Dunmore has published eleven novels with Penguin: Zennor in Darkness, which won the McKitterick Prize; Burning Bright; A Spell of Winter, which won the Orange Prize; Talking to the Dead; Your Blue-Eyed Boy; With Your Crooked Heart; The Siege, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2002; Mourning Ruby; House of Orphans; Counting the Stars and The Betrayal which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010. She is also a poet, children's novelist and short-story writer.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising story 7 May 2010
The novel opens with an emotional dilemma that gripped me heart and soul. Should Andrei treat an ill child even though he is putting the life of himself and his family at risk? After reading Dunmore's The Siege, it was good to be reunited with Anna and Andrei and see how their lives had turned out (though this book stands alone and you could go straight to it or read The Siege first). They are tender, likeable, brave characters, whose humanity puts them in danger. But this novel is not judgmental of the other characters who live under the restrictions of Stalin's Russia in 1952. We experience the tensions of such lives, the need for survival, the compromises and the unexpected moments of courage. The novel's atmospheric evocation of Russia, the powerful characterisation, and the tense dialogue all make this a good read. In the end,this is a love story that keeps you reading. I opened the book and couldn't stop - I had to know what happened to Anna,Andrei and Kolya. Sparely but poetically written - I feel as though I've seen Anna's green dress and walked in the cold streets with Volkov. I highly recommend this book. Afterwards, it kept going round in my head. A fantastic, emotional and life enhancing read.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sober depiction of life under Stalin 24 May 2010
Having read 'The Siege' and found it absolutely wonderful, I was very interested to read this follow up. As has been pointed out both books stand alone, but they are both worth reading. Andrei and Anna and Kolya, Anna's brother all live together in their apartment, the same apartment they went through the Siege of Leningrad in, and are now having to endure the horror of Stalin's Russia where every neighbour has been turned into a spy and the slightest wrong gesture or slip of the tongue can result in imprisonment and far worse. Andrei is a doctor and although he should never have been called upon for this particular case, ends up taking care of a very sick boy of a fearsome official. This case has been palmed off on to him by another doctor who should have taken it on but is too terrified of the consequence if anything should go amiss with the treatment. The story is based around the real persecution of doctors during the reign of Stalin -the Doctors' Plot - where they were falsely accused of being enemies of the state. So through Andrei, we are witness to the absolute horror of living life under Stalin. If one is to really think what it must have been like to live life in perpetual fear of neighbours, work colleagues, to have no real freedom of speech, it is awful. If you are interested in this book then I am sure that you would be interested in 'Wild Swans', a true story in the era of Mao.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I actually missed The Siege when it was first published but I did buy a copy as soon as I had finished The Betrayal. For me The Betrayal is an even better novel and fans of The Siege will not be disappointed.

It continues the story of Anna and Andre and their struggle to survive in post-war Soviet Russia. They may no-longer have to boil leather for 'soup' but getting food still mean queuing, perhaps for hours, hoping that the supply will not run out before they reach the head of the queue. The people of Leningrad may no-longer have to worry about the enemy without, but the enemy within is real, nothing has really changed. From the moment that Andre is asked to look at a sick child, the son of Volkov a senior secret-police officer, I had a sense of foreboding. The suspense builds with every page as the main characters, a doctor and nursery teacher, are caught up in a situation from which there is no escape under the Stalinist regime. It made me try to imagine what it would be like to live in a society where you lived in fear of being denounced by 'friends' or neighbours, where 'trust no-one' was a creed you lived by. Then again, can we really condemn the betrayers? Their lives, the lives of their families were also threatened and perhaps they just did what they had to to survive.

This is fiction and yet it reads like fact, I believed in the characters, believed that this situation occured. Dunmore takes the reader on a journey into the heart of Soviet Russia, this novel entertains and educates, what more can you ask?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My book of the year 27 Dec 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this book. Gripping, thoughtful, beautifully researched and written, human....well, you get the idea. It is the story of Andre, a young hospital doctor, his wife Anna, and her young (orphaned) brother, trying to survive in post-war Stalinist Russia. Andre is persuaded - against his better judgement - to treat the young son of an important government official, and from the start, the reader knows that this can only lead to trouble. As the child's condition deteriorates - through no-one's fault; his fate is inevitable - the net slowly begins to close around Andre and his family, and the tension builds up gradually and inevitably as the novel moves towards its climax. This novel has everything. Wonderful writing, great story-telling, warm and believable characters. It would seem that others agree, since the hardback appears to be sold out, and the paperback doesn't appear until February. But it is a wonderful book, and a treat for Dunmore's many fans.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Dire story well told
Published 9 days ago by Linda Durman
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant sequel to The Siege
A brilliant sequel to The Siege which gives s great insight into living in Russia in the 1950's. Saying more might spoil the book for those who haven't read the Siege. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Christine Adams
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very well written and a powerful portrayal of life under such a terrifying regime
Published 24 days ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but scary reminder of 20th century Soviet regime.
I thought this was a brilliant book - not an easy read though - quite harrowing. The ending was a little abrupt - I reread it a couple of times to make sure I hadn't missed... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lori
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
It is difficult to say you 'enjoyed' this book because of the subject matter. However it is an extremely thought provoking book and you wonder how you would behave in these... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs S.
3.0 out of 5 stars Depressing but good
Don't read this if you're feeling down, you'll sink further, but as an insight into what Stalin's Russia must have been like it is very good.
Published 5 months ago by Jan Harrison
4.0 out of 5 stars Englishwoman with a Russian soul
Helen Dunmore drew a fine picture of Russian life post the siege of Leningrad. Although the facts are bleak. The story is not depressing, somehow there is a ray of hope present. Read more
Published 8 months ago by rema pear
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read book
Great sequel book to the Siege.

Read the Siege and buy this book afterwards. You wont be disappointed. Read more
Published 10 months ago by aries
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
This book is definitely a page turner. Once you have started it, it is not easy to put it down.

Helen Dunmore has clearly done a lot of historical research. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Discerning Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars a compelling read
Chilling insight to the workings of Stalinist Russia, it sometimes seems like the siege of Leningrad was almost preferable to the mental hardships and suspicion of the post war... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Anne Banks
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