I have to admit that Helen Dunmore can do no wrong where I’m concerned. The Betrayal picks up on the story of Andrei and Anna in post-war Stalinist Leningrad. I was impressed by the way Dunmore worked the earlier novel, The Siege, and her evocation of the sensations of hunger and cold that formed the background to Leningrad during the siege of 1941/2, and this later tale is equally impressive.
The reader is sucked into the story of the young couple, and those around them. I found myself reading the book as if I were also waiting for that dreaded knock on the door. The fear and tension are palpable, as are the feelings of living under a totalitarian regime, where people can be arrested and accused of non-existent crimes merely because of the delusions of a paranoid dictator and the machine that grinds away under his wheels. It’s a story that makes you care desperately about the characters it depicts, even the less sympathetic ones, as you’re aware that everybody is a victim, even those who appear to wield power.
Dunmore researches and writes meticulously; you will feel as if you are in cold war Russia, struggling to survive and maintain your dignity.