August 25, 2010

The Betrayal - Helen Dunmore

The Betrayal is one of the books long listed for this years Man Booker Prize and is the follow up book to The Siege which I read a couple of weeks ago. It has been said that you can read the books out of order or one without the other but I don't think it is only my tendency to obsessive reading patterns that has me saying you should read The Siege first and then The Betrayal - I think they compliment each other so well and I think you would be disappointed if you read them in the other order (at least I know I would have been). Just to let you know that the following review may give away some plot details which you may prefer not to know if you haven't read the books as yet but are planning to.

The Betrayal starts a little while after the end of The Siege in 1952 - the siege of Leningrad is over and families are trying to rebuild their lives in the midst of the terrors and uncertainties of the Stalin regime.

The Betrayal again focuses on the characters of Anna and Andrei who have now married and are together taking care of Anna's 16 year old brother, Kolya. Andrei is working as a doctor in a local hospital and it is in this role that he comes across a young boy with a possibly serious medical condition - nothing really out of the ordinary except for the fact that this boy is the son of one of the highest ranking members of the secret police - a man who is known and feared.

It did take me a lot longer to become engaged with this book than I did with The Siege - I think the main reason for this is that The Siege really focused on Anna's telling of her story whereas The Betrayal begins by focusing a lot more on Andrei's story and experiences being told more from his point of view. There was nothing wrong with this - in fact this is where the focus of this particular story needed to be - I was just expecting more from Anna to begin with.

Once I became involved in the story though I was hooked - again it is a beautifully written and expressed story. My only critique would have to be about the final short chapter of the book - in my view it wasn't needed and I wish the story had ended at the end of the second last chapter instead.

But this is really only a minor complaint - this book and the stories of the characters held my interest and has me now looking for more - not sure that this will be forthcoming??


nomadreader said...

I'm reading this one too (and I also really enjoyed The Siege). I also love historical fiction for filling in the gaps of my knowledge, and I would love to see their story continue.

Unknown said...

I didn't have a problem with the ending - I quite liked it actually :-)

I'm not sure I'd like to read a sequel. I thought that The Betrayal was weaker than The Siege and I'd be worried that any sequel would slide further down that scale. They can't possibly endure more hardship!! I am looking forward to reading many more of her books in the future.

Marg said...

I am planning to reread The Siege and then read this one.

I find it very difficult to read connected books out of order too.

Karen said...

Hi nomadreader - It is a great series for providing info about that time peiod from history - it has sparked my interest to learn more.

Hi Jackie - I noticed you felt very differently about the ending to me!

Hi Marg - I'm glad I'm not the only one with that reading trait!

Tamara said...

Hi Karen, I must admit after reading your review of the Siege I really wanted to read it too. But by the sounds of this, it might be the only one I'd get through. I've decided for me there's not enough reading time to loose it struggling to engage...I must say though, the covers are catchy.

Karen said...

Hi T - the covers of both of these are definitely stunning. I totally agree with your reading philosophy - life's too short to read books you really aren't that engaged with!

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I'm with you on reading books sequentially, i.e. I'd've done the same - read The Siege before The Betrayal. I think I'm done with Booker reading for the time-being though - I want to go back to some of the books on my shelf. Maybe in a few weeks, I'll read both these, back to back?

Karen said...

Hi anothercookiecrumbles - I know what you mean, I have sooooo many books waiting for me right now!

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