Anne's Reviews > The Betrayal

The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
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it was amazing

Despite the Booker long-listing, or maybe because of it, I approached this one with some trepidation. I've never read any Helen Dunmore, and I remember being put off by a review of Mourning Ruby that called it "like a Russian doll" - too literary for me, I thought, and I've never touched her stuff since. So I pick this one up, and then find it's a sequel to The Siege, which I haven't read - but don't be put off by that, I wasn't, and it worked perfectly as a stand-alone. And I now have a new author to add to my list of favourites and acquire the entire back catalogue - this book was quite superb.

Set in 1950s Leningrad, in the last days of Lenin, we encounter Andrei the paediatric doctor, his wife Anna who works in a kindergarten and Anna's young brother Kolya. These are good people in a loving household, and against the extraordinary tension and oppression of the last days of Lenin we watch them doing the ordinary things of life - weekends at the dacha, eking out the food, arguing with neighbours, meeting friends, dressing for a dance. When Andrei finds himself leading the hospital treatment of the dying son of Volkov, a chief of the secret police, the world comes crashing down in a way that makes you want to do something about the unjustness of it .

The characterisation is superb, major and minor characters alike - even Volkov, whose anger, fear and irrationality can almost be understood. The tension throughout the book is palpable - this is a world unlike anything we'll ever know, cold for reasons other than the ubiquitous snow, where no-one can be trusted and freedom's an illusion. And it's a truly excellent read - the author has a lovely flowing poetic style (in a good way) that makes you want to read on. And although The Betrayal paints a vivid picture of the political scene, this is a really touching personal and emotional story about ordinary individuals who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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Reading Progress

August 27, 2010 – Shelved
August 29, 2010 – Started Reading
August 30, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Good review, Annie. I also thought it sounded too literary and now sounds better than I thought.

Anne Not literary at all Caroline and a lovely surprise - passing it on to Anne when we meet up at Manchester in Sept, so I'm sure it'll come your way in due course!

message 3: by Julia (new)

Julia Thanks for that Annie - I enjoyed The Siege (although not as multi-layered as The Bronze Horseman) so will look out for this one now - after such an excellent review who would not want to read it!

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