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The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore

The Betrayal (2010)

by Helen Dunmore

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3043652,181 (3.96)212
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    Far to Go by Alison Pick (lucyknows)
  2. 00
    Into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginsburg (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: One autobiographical and one fictional tale of what it was like to fall victim to Stalin's purges. Dunmore lists "Journey Into The Whirlwind" as one of the books she referred to when writing "The Betrayal".

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I liked this book quite a bit. Very tense even though you can guess what will happen from the first pages. A high-brow melodrama. Lovely, elegant writing. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
post war Communist Russia
say nothing — invisible — still many spies — good

In 1952 Leningrad, Andrei, a young doctor, and Anna, a nursery school teacher, are forging a life together in the postwar, post-siege wreckage. But they know their happiness is precarious, like that of millions of Russians who must avoid the claws of Stalin's merciless Ministry of State Security. When Andrei is forced to treat the seriously ill child of a senior secret police officer, his every move is scrutinized, and it becomes painfully clear that his own fate, and that of his family, is bound to the child's. Trapped in an impossible game of life and death, and pitted against a power-mad father's raging grief, Andrei and Anna must avoid the whispers and watchful eyes of those who will say or do anything to save themselves.
  christinejoseph | May 20, 2018 |
This is the sequel to the author's magnificent novel The Siege, which I read last summer. It is the early 1950s, towards the end of Stalin's long rule. Siege survivors Anna and Andrei are now married and living with Anna's now teenage brother Kolya. Anna is a nursery school teacher and Andrei still works in the hospital in Leningrad that he kept attending even in the bleakest mid-winter days of the terrible siege. Andrei's professional life is thrown into turmoil when he is asked to advise on a case of a child's swollen leg. This seemingly minor event turns out tragically both medically and politically, for the child is the only son of a senior official in the Ministry of State Security, the forbidding S I Volkov, and many medical personnel are reluctant to get involved, the Hippocratic oath being perverted by the all-pervasive fear of becoming involved in any way with the secret police. The child's swelling turns out to be a tumour and he has to have his leg amputated. Later secondary cancer turns up in the boy's lungs and it is too late to save him. Volkov's natural horror as a parent is compounded by the political authority he possesses, and both Andrei and the surgeon who operated on the boy, Dr Brodskaya, are caught up in the maelstrom. Brodskaya is Jewish and the novel's plot mirrors the horrible real life events of the last months of Stalin's life when, in the so-called Doctors' Plot, a number of doctors, most of them Jewish, were arrested and charged with the medical murder of several top Soviet politicians who had died in the previous few years, including Andrei Zhdanov, Leningrad's leader during the siege. Andrei finds himself suspended from duty and later arrested and taken to the notorious Lubyanka in Moscow. Anna, pregnant with her and Andrei's child, struggles to find help on the outside but retains her freedom and takes refuge in the countryside with an old family friend. After a final meeting in prison with Volkov, who tries to persuade Andrei to sign a statement that he was hoodwinked by Brodskaya's "plotting" to cause his son's cancer to spread, Andrei is sent to the gulag in Siberia, not far from his home city, Irkutsk. The novel ends with Volkov's suicide as his son lies dying, followed by Stalin's own death. Anna faces the future with a little more hope than Andrei will eventually be released from the wrongful charges in the somewhat more liberal atmosphere (in real life, the arrested doctors were released very soon afterwards). This is another brilliant novel from Helen Dunmore. ( )
  john257hopper | Jan 21, 2018 |
This was presented in 10, 15-minute segments. It seemed good, but very intense. I can tell I missed a lot of the story. I'm left with a lot of questions. For example, what happened with Volkof? Does the novel explain? And why were things as they were in the first place? Why was that regime so hateful? And since it was all before my time, I wonder what happened after Stalin died. How did they transition into what seems like a relatively "normal" society today? (Have to say, what I see now were stories of the Stalin era definitely colored my impression of Russia when I was growing up. It seemed like such a horrible, treacherous place. I was so surprised to find, much later as an adult, that people there were happy and life for them was very similar to ours.) ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
The Betrayal is the sequel to Helen Dunmore's earlier novel, The Siege, which is about a family attempting to survive the second world war in Leningrad during a terrible winter. The book really managed to convey the endless cold and hunger, and the way in which the family’s world shrank inside the walls of their apartment. The Betrayal follows Anna and Andrei, the young couple from the earlier novel, as they face a dilemma: Andrei, a respected doctor, is asked to treat the seriously ill child of a senior party official. This could be extremely dangerous for Andrei and he is faced with the question of whether to attempt to escape, to flee Leningrad, or to agree to become involved in treating the child.

I have to say that I didn’t like The Betrayal quite as much as The Siege, but there were still things I enjoyed about it and during the second half of the book I became completely involved in the plot and finished the book very quickly. The novel definitely created suspense and tension, and a sense of how it would have been to live in a world of paranoia and persecution, how the characters felt spied upon and could not speak their mind freely, even to friends. I think one problem I had with the novel was that the way people thought and spoke seemed a little too modern; it’s difficult to express why I felt this but I didn’t feel as if I was being taken into a new world. I suppose this modern feeling could be a way of drawing the reader in, making us care about the characters and even showing some parallels between Soviet Russia and the UK! (for example, the way bureaucracy, official language and the setting of targets have affected people’s lives). But I found this actually distanced me from the novel somewhat, and I also felt that the characters were a little too similar to each other and often seemed to speak with the same voice, one which I just didn’t feel particularly drawn to. Anna and Andrei were sympathetic but somehow seemed too ordinary. It was as if the story could have been about anybody – and maybe that was the point, but I felt this made me like the book, rather than love it.

I think what I do like about Helen Dunmore’s writing is her lyricism and the way in which she can express strong emotion. I preferred the sections of the novel that concentrated on Anna’s thoughts, her feelings towards her family, and the way that the past, and her experiences in the siege, kept breaking through into her new life. I liked Anna’s memories of her relationship with her father, a writer who had fallen out of favour under Lenin’s regime, and his lover Marina. One idea that was expressed repeatedly was that the past (our personal past and the more historical past) is as real as the present and still has a great deal of power over our lives. ‘Anna believes that it’s not a question of remembering or forgetting. The past is alive. It claims what is its own.’ I like the way the novel gives the sensation of time passing, the seasons flowing on and spring coming again, despite what happens in human life. The city of Leningrad is also indifferent to the characters, ‘a beautiful, preoccupied mother’, beloved by them but with its own life that continues despite their individual problems. I like the way Helen Dunmore places individual lives within a strong feeling of the wide scope of history and the natural world. The end of the book merges fact and fiction, and the novel’s story of individual lives with the official recorded version of history, in a way I found really moving. ( )
  papercat | Jun 27, 2017 |
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Book description
Leningrad in 1952: a city recovering from war, where Anna, a nursery school teacher, and Andrei, a young hospital doctor, 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 a 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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Leningrad in 1952: 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. The extraordinary sequel to 'The Siege'.… (more)

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