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


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

1

It's a fresh June morning, without a trace of humidity, but Russov is sweating. Sunlight from the hospital corridor's high window glints on his forehead. Andrei's attention sharpens. The man is pale, too, and his eyes are pouched with shadow.

It could be a hangover, but Russov rarely drinks more than a single glass of beer. He's not overweight. A touch of flu then, even though it's June? Or maybe he needs a check-up. He's in his mid-forties; the zone of heart disease.

Russov comes close, closer than two people should stand. His breath is in Andrei's face, and suddenly Andrei stops diagnosing, stops being at a comfortable doctorly distance from the symptoms of a colleague. His skin prickles. His body knows more than his mind does. Russov smells of fear, and his conciliating smile cannot hide it. He wants something, but he is afraid.

'Andrei Mikhailovich . . .'

'What is it?'

'Oh, it's nothing important. Only if you've got a moment . . .'

His face is glistening all over now. Drops of sweat are beginning to form.

Suddenly Russov whips out his handkerchief and wipes his forehead as if he were polishing a piece of furniture.

'Excuse me, I'm feeling the heat... I don't know when they're going to get around to turning off these radiators. You'd think our patients had all been prescribed steam baths.'

The hospital's radiators are cold.

'I wanted to ask your advice, if you've got a moment. As a diagnostician there's no one whose opinion I respect more.'

Now why is he saying that? Only last week there was an idiotically petty and irritable 'professional disagreement' over a little girl with an enlarged spleen following a serious fall. Russov had gone on about 'scientific accountability' while he tapped his pen scornfully on the table. He hadn't appeared very impressed by Andrei's diagnostic skills then. Andrei always spent far too much time with his patients. This was a clear-cut case of splenic trauma following an abdominal injury. The only question was whether it could be treated non-operatively, or whether an immediate operation was advisable.

When it turned out that the child's swollen spleen had indeed nothing to do with the accident, and was due to undiagnosed leukaemia, Russov muttered about 'flukes' and 'all this hands-on mumbo-jumbo'. But all the same, Russov is a reasonably good physician. Hard-working, responsible and extremely keen to write up as many cases as possible, in the hope of raising his research profile. He's certainly getting noticed. One day no doubt he'll produce that definitive research paper which will unlock the door to a paradise of conferences and the golden promise of a trip abroad. Andrei's gift for diagnosis annoys him. It isn't classifiable and it hasn't been achieved in the correct way, through study and examination. The two men have never become friends.

'So what's the problem, Boris Ivanovich?' asks Andrei. Russov glances down the corridor. A radiographer is wheeling a trolleyload of X-ray files towards them.

'Let's go outside for a breath of air.'

The courtyard is large enough to be planted with lime trees and rose bushes. It's good for the patients to look out and see living things. Andrei remembers the time when they grew vegetables here: onions and carrots and cabbages, rows and rows of them packed together. Every green space in Leningrad became a vegetable plot, that first summer of the siege. Strange how close it still feels, as if those times have such power that they still exist, just out of sight.

These limes are young trees, less than ten years old. The former trees were all chopped up for the hospital stoves in the winter of '41/2. But the wood ran out at last, no matter how much they scavenged. Andrei's fingers still remember the icy, barren touch of the unlit stoves. Two paths run criss-cross through the courtyard. In its centre there's a circle of gravel, and a bench. Russov remains standing. His feet shift, crunching the gravel, as he takes out a packet of Primas and offers it to Andrei.

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
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...

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 Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  125Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

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.