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The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore’s The Betrayal tells the story of Andrei and Anna, a married couple trying to live in Stalin’s Soviet Union.  Their town, Leningrad, has just survived a siege where millions of the city’s inhabitants died trying to hold out against Hitler’s German forces during World War II.  Leningrad did not fall to the Germans but it paid a horrible price.  Imagine walking down the street and seeing random corpses everywhere-frozen to park benches, sticking out of snow drifts.  Standing in line for hours and hours for little bits of food.  Sleeping at night with as many people in bed with you and as many clothes and outerwear on as possible so you hopefully will not freeze to death overnight.  When the nightmare siege ends, a new nightmare begins.  Stalin rules with an iron fist and citizens must watch what they say and do every second they’re awake.  Neighbors and co-workers inform on each other, family members denounce one another.  In this atmosphere, Andrei, a doctor, is asked  to treat the only son of an important government official.  The child’s disease is a very serious one and Andrei is secretly advised by friends to disappear or call in sick rather than treat him.  Anna has just discovered she is pregnant and the last thing he needs is to be taken from her.  He gets involved anyway and you’ll have to read the book to find out the consequences.  When I  get frustrated about our country’s politics, I can always read some historical fiction about regular life in the Soviet Union and realize things could be worse!

Stacy W.

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