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

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Betrayal

A Novel

By Helen Dunmore

The Betrayal
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Sep 2011,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2011,
    336 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


'Retinskaya did the X-rays out of hours,' says Lena, naming a radiographer who is new to the department and whom Andrei scarcely knows.

'She's like that with Russov.'

'Lena, how do you know all these things?'

'Because I've got kids. There's only me to look after them, and so I have to know things. Listen, we've been talking too long. Promise me you won't go in for any heroics. A man like Volkov, you don't want him even to know your name. You just have to not be here, that's all it'll take. Call in sick tomorrow.'

The children. Yes, Lena has two children. And no husband, like so many. Andrei never knew him, because Lena's not a Leningrader. She's a Muscovite who moved here after the war. Her husband was a prisoner of war and he died in a German camp. He left behind a girl who must be fourteen now, tall, with long plaits, and a boy a year or so younger. Both of them are much fairer than Lena, and the girl is as slender as a willow, quite different from her dark, stocky mother. The dead man moves inside them like a shadow, in the turn of a head or the gesture of a hand.

Anna has always liked Lena. Kolya likes the girl, too: Vava. Call in sick! If only he could. Anna could call in sick too - a double miracle - and they'd take their bikes and some bread and sausage and cycle out to the dacha for the day. Kolya would be at school, so it would be a real holiday, just the two of them. He'd repair the shutters, and Anna would dig the vegetable garden and then make tea.

But Russov must be crazy to take such a risk with the X-rays. It's inconceivable that he's simply destroyed them. There must be a record. Crazy, or very, very frightened. What can those X-rays have shown? If it's some form of juvenile arthritic disease, then it's legitimate - or at least, semi-legitimate - to shunt the case on to Andrei. Everyone in the hospital knows he runs two JA clinics a week. But X-rays reveal many things - He fights down an urge to find Russov and shake him until he disgorges every bit of information he's got. Let's see if he dares to lie about those X-rays when Andrei's hands are around his throat!

Russov would still lie. What's he got to lose by it? And the radiographer, what's her name, she'll lie too. They'll have calculated that the worst that could happen is that the child might remember being X-rayed; but no one takes much notice of what children say.

Another wave passes through him, but this time it's revulsion rather than anger. The child, in the middle of all this, not suspecting a thing. He's been told what doctors are for: doctors are there to make you better. What have we come to, thinks Andrei, when our patients can make us ashamed of ourselves.

Call in sick... An attack of flu, even though it's midsummer. He can smell the earth as Anna pulls weeds from between her rows of carrots. The soil will be moist after all this rain. The weeds will come out easily, and Anna will throw them on to a heap to wilt and die. He blinks. The blob of sun on the corridor wall wavers. The day shines before him, impossibly ordinary and beautiful. This must be how the dead think of life. All those things they used to take for granted, and can never have again.

He is no brilliant Roskin. He's never likely to be offered trips to America, or the chance to be bamboozled by American spies posing as disinterested fellow researchers who care for nothing but the good of humanity. He's just an ordinary doctor; a good one, it would be false modesty not to recognize that, but still - just a doctor.

That's all he wants; no more, but no less. He wants to live out an ordinary, valuable life. He wants Anna, and their life together, and Kolya too, maddening as Kolya so often is. He wants to come into work early and smile as he passes a colleague in the corridor, with her arms full of files.

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

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Doctors' Plot

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...
  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh
  2.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois

All Discussions

Who Said...

The most successful people are those who are good at plan B

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.