Excerpt from The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Betrayal

A Novel

By Helen Dunmore

The Betrayal
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2011,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2011,
    336 pages.

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'Even when they hurt I do them,' says Tanya proudly.

'That's right. Remember what I told you, it may hurt but it will never harm you. You're not putting any weight on your knees, you see. You're just helping them to learn how to move again. And how about the cod liver oil?' 'She takes it every day, good as gold, don't you, Tanya?'

What he'd really like to do is send Tanya to a sanatorium that specializes in arthritis. There's no father: dead in the war, like so many of his children's fathers. Probably never even saw his daughter. The mother is from Kingisepp originally, but she and all her family fled east as the Germans advanced, and were sent on to the Urals. Tanya and her mother must have returned as part of Leningrad's post-war influx. And now Tanya's seven, and her mother works in a tailoring shop. Their chance of a ticket to a children's sanatorium looks slim, but it's still worth pursuing.

'And you've kept all the physiotherapy appointments?'

Tanya's mother can manage these hospital visits, but each physiotherapy session means that her own mother, who went back to live in Kingisepp, must travel to Leningrad, stay over and take Tanya to the clinic. 'She'd live with me if it would help, but in a communal apartment like ours it's not really possible. Our room is very small. And besides, she grows vegetables, and that's how I get extra eggs and milk for Tanya.'

'Yes, Tanya's been to her appointments as regular as clockwork,' says her mother with pride. 'She's never missed a single one.'

'That's really excellent,' says Andrei warmly. 'Now, please wait just a moment while I have a quick word with the radiographer. Tanya, I'm going to ask Sofya Vasilievna to look especially carefully today.' He spends too long with patients. He talks to them too much. He's been criticized for it, but he points out in his defence that in the long term his approach is efficient. It enables him to spot problems as they develop, or even before. He achieves 'exceptionally high levels of patient compliance with treatment', which is certainly something that can be ticked off on the targets. It's not all 'yes doctor no doctor' and then go home and swallow some decoction their grandmas swear by, and not bother with the exercises because the poor little thing is sick, isn't she, so what's the good of wearing her out?

Also, Andrei believes that children want to know far more than we think they do. They get less frightened that way. He has known children close to death who have understood it in a strangely matter-of-fact way, but have suffered because their parents, in grief and terror, refused to acknowledge what was happening.

He's on his way up to the ward when someone behind him calls his name. He turns. 'Lena! Sorry, I'm in a rush - '

She's panting, and her face is flushed. She must have run after him. 'I saw you coming out of Radiology.'

'Is everything all right?'

'I've got to talk to you. It's important. It'll only take a minute.'

'What's wrong?'

She glances up and down the corridor, puts a hand on his arm and steers him a few metres away from the half-open door to their left.

'You were in the courtyard with Russov.'

'Yes?'

'It's about the boy who came in last night, isn't it? He's in a private room, but Lyuba saw the name. What's going on? Don't for God's sake let Russov drag you into this.'

'Lena, is it true that this is Volkov's boy?'

Again that quick look up and down the corridor. 'Yes. They say it's the only child.'

Andrei feels a plunge in his stomach, as if he were standing on a cliff and had suddenly looked down.

'He was, wasn't he?' asks Lena.

'What?'

'Russov. Trying to dump the case on you. It's so typical - '

'I suppose we can't blame him, Lena. If we were in his shoes - '

The Betrayal © 2010 by Helen Dunmore; reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

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