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The Betrayal Paperback – Mar 29 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin UK (March 29 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014104683X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141046839
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #564,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER on Nov. 24 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book uses as its inspiration the "Doctor's Plot" (which I believe was an all too real Stalinist-era witch-hunt) to provide us with a strong atmospheric story showing what life in Russia was like toward the end of the Stalinist era in the USSR. The absolute insanity and day-by-day paranoia and terror is evoked skilfully here. The book does drag a bit in places but I believe it absolutely succeeds in what it sets out to achieve. This is no "In the First Circle" but its very strong nonetheless.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
worthy sequel to The Siege Oct. 5 2010
By Kindle Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for The Siege, the first book in this series. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read my review of The Siege.

The Betrayal, a sequel to The Siege, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2002, is on this year's Booker Prize longlist.

The Betrayal picks up in Leningrad in 1952. Anna and Andrei are happily married and raising her younger brother Kolya as if he were their own. Andrei is a successful doctor, but his values are put to the test when the child of a senior secret police officer comes in for treatment and the prognosis isn't good.

I really enjoyed The Siege, and it was wonderful to reconnect with these characters so quickly. In many ways, though, The Betrayal doesn't read like a sequel. Yes, the characters are familiar, and the setting is still Leningrad, but life during the siege and life under Stalin are radically different. Also different in this novel is the narration. Anna's point of view drove the narrative of The Siege, but Andrei took center stage for much of The Betrayal. Dunmore plays with the themes of paranoia, trust and perception beautifully:

"We should panic," she says. "People are destroyed because they don't panic in time. They think it won't happen to them." (p. 38)

Historical fiction can easily seem too grim or too romanticized. Helen Dunmore manages to convey the atrocities of the place and time while still believing in the power of the human spirit to persevere or perish:

They believed in the next world, and no wonder, when this one had given them nothing. But we believed in making this world a better place. (p. 322)

Anna's too young yet to know that the past is just as real as the present, even though you have to pretend that it isn't, and carry on towards the future. (p. 323)

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this novel was Dunmore's ability to take one story, and a one family, to tell the story of Leningrad itself:

Our city is like that, too, think Anna. We love it, but it doesn't love us. We're like children who cling to the skirts of a beautiful, preoccupied mother. (p. 261)

Despite being quite different from The Siege, I thoroughly enjoyed The Betrayal. The tale was more familiar to me, and thus less shocking, but I loved following these characters through a different period in their lives. The combination of these two novels provides a nice context for modern Russian history.

The Betrayal is a worthy follow-up to The Siege and will appeal to fans of historical fiction and literary fiction.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Claustrophobic Stalinist Russia Sept. 6 2010
By Richard Pittman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Betrayal is nominated for the 2010 Man Booker Prize. As I write this, we are a day away from the short list announcement where The Betrayal appears to have a 50-50 chance.

Did I like it? Yes, it was tense, moved very well and dealt with a good doctor who just wants to save lives but exists in a totalitarian regime where you need to play by the rules. The rules are that The Party rules and you need to be subservient to The Party and especially to its highest officials.

The good doctor in question is Andrei who is sneakily asked by a colleague to examine a child. It is sneaky because the child is the son of high ranking official. Since the boy is sick, the doctor that takes the case will be in great jeopardy. Andrei knows all this and still chooses to get to know the boy and to treat him. This is what Andrei believes he must do as a doctor.

Unfortunately, in the time and place he lives, this puts him and his family in great jeopardy. Despite everyone's advice he does what he believes to be the right thing. As the situation deteriorates, Andrei's life gets worse and worse.

This is a very tense book and has a very appealing lead character. It captures the paranoia of Stalinist Russia very well. It is a quick and enjoyable read. This is a sequel to a book called The Siege which I have not read. It stands well on its own though I cannot comment on whether my enjoyment would have been enhanced by reading The Siege.

On the downside, the book doesn't really add a different perspective to the time and place that it is about. It's a simple story in a complex time and place. I recommend it but don't think it has the substance to win the Booker Award.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Worthy Sequel Nov. 23 2011
By Miss Melly - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a sequel, but it is not "The Siege II". So if you're looking for another tale of survival and starvation, you need to read another book on the same subject.
This novel has moved on from the 90-day seige and takes us into a country stuggling under the new regime. While the first book centred on Anna, this one belongs to Andrei - and his is a worthwhile story.
Not quite as good as the first novel, but a good novel in its own right.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A well-written historical novel Oct. 20 2011
By Martin L. Davis II - Published on
Format: Paperback
The second of Dunmore's historical novels set in 1950's Russia following the siege of Leningrad, "The Betrayal" is effectively a stand-alone work. Although her prequel "The Siege" might fill in further character development and background, this work effectively stands on its own. A thread of paranoia runs throughout the storyline of this well researched novel as a compassionate doctor is blamed for the death of a Russian official's son from alleged incompetency, and the supporting characters suffer on several levels as bureaucratic forces take control. A story of hope and despair, this is a fine account with a glimmer of optimism.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Gripping Oct. 2 2013
By Discerning Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
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. While one finds it difficult to accept that individual human beings could be treated in such an awful way by the state, we are more aware today than ever before that this in fact can happen. While the book is set in Stalinist Russia, one only has to remember what is currently happening in Syria, what has happened to individuals like Ai Wei Wei in China ( brought home to audiences in the west by Howard Brenton's play, The Arrest of Ai Weiwei) and many other places, that state control can often mean a denial of human rights.

The reader can only have praise for Andrei, the main character, as he puts his principles as a medical professional, above any other considerations. The book, therefore, reminds us that individuals who are firm believers in some values, or their professions, face many dilemmas and have to make rough decisions which could be detrimental to themselves and their families.
While there is a lot of description of medical conditions and decisions, Helen Dunmore has managed to make it easy to follow for the reader, especially the one without any medical knowledge, and has not fallen into the trap, for instance of Ian McEwan in his novel Saturday, where he went overboard with medical details.

The characters in The Betrayal are drawn very clearly. Helen Dunmore writes very well, in particular able to describe their feelings, moods, thoughts, in such a way that the characters come live for the reader.

Somehow, however, the story with many tensions seems to come to an end without any twist in the tail, as one might have expected. One does not look for a very dramatic ending, but with the challenges described in the book, the end seemed slightly an anti-climax.