Study Guide

The Betrayal

by Helen Dunmore

The Betrayal Summary

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

Helen Dunmore's The Betrayal takes place in post-World War II Leningrad and is the sequel to her novel The Siege, which follows Andrei and Anna Mikhailovich through their horrendous experiences in Leningrad's 900-day siege. 

In Chapter 1 of The Betrayal, Dunmore introduces Dr. Andrei Mikhailovich, who is once again one of her main characters. Andrei is a renowned diagnostician, especially in regards to pediatric medicine, and as the chapter opens, he observes his colleague's nervousness. Andrei immediately begins to analyze what could be the cause of Dr. Russov's profuse sweating. As Russov approaches Andrei, he senses his fear and realizes that Russov is not physically ill, but rather that he is extremely anxious about something. Before Andrei has time to determine the cause of his colleague's anxiety, Russov asks him to accompany him outside for a breath of fresh air. When the men reach the courtyard and are away from prying ears, Russov proceeds to tell Andrei about a ten-year-old patient who was admitted the previous night. At first, Russov tries to pretend that he is asking for Andrei's advice because he respects Andrei's opinion, but Andrei is not to be swayed by his colleague's pandering. Many times in the past, Russov had criticized Andrei's methods and reprimanded him for spending too much time with his patients. Andrei knows that his fellow doctor is complimenting him only because he needs something. Russov finally admits that it is not necessarily the patient's health issues that have him most concerned: it is the patient's last name. He is the only child of Volkov, a feared leader in the Soviet Union's Ministry of Security. Volkov's name alone strikes fear in those who hear it, and Andrei recognizes that Russov is trying to pass on the case to him. Hence, if anything goes wrong, Volkov's revenge will be directed toward Andrei. When Russov realizes that Andrei is not succumbing to his flattery,...

(The entire section is 642 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary

As Andrei ponders what to do in regards to the Volkov case, his wife Anna works tirelessly at one of the many State-sponsored nursery schools. In addition to teaching primary-age children, Anna has gained the necessary qualifications to be a child nutritionist. As such, she is responsible for keeping track of the children's physical growth, and her supervisor, Larissa Morozona, has pressured her into additionally keeping up with averages and other statistics.

As Anna tries to finish up for the day, her coworker, Irina, enters the office and they discuss their various responsibilities and their boss. Anna admires her boss's tenacity and ambition, but both women are wary of Larissa Morozona's loyalty, so they carefully guard their words. Their conversation soon turns to the dress that Anna is making for the hospital ball and Irina, who is single, lives vicariously through Anna as she describes the fabric and style of the gown. Anna, a generous and thoughtful friend, promises to allow Irina to wear the dress after she has attended the ball.

As Anna and Irina talk, Anna's mind wanders to the origin of the beautiful green fabric that she has chosen for her dress. During the siege, Anna's father Mikhail and his mistress Marina lived with her and Andrei. Mikhail spent most of his last days in hiding because of his reputation as a controversial writer. He died of starvation and hypothermia during the siege, and Marina soon followed him. Anna's only inheritance from her father are his books and Marina's treasured leather chest which she brought with her from Moscow. The chest contained the green fabric for Anna's dress, some beautiful red silk that Anna's knew was too flashy to use, and Marina's slippers. Anna sold the silk to buy clothing for Kolya and has sentimentally preserved the slippers.

Just as Anna's mind returns to the present and she and Irina finish their conversation, their supervisor enters the office. Irina, who is intimidated by Morozona,...

(The entire section is 813 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary

When Andrei arrives home, he finds Anna there by herself—a rare occasion. Kolya is out with friends, so Andrei plans on enjoying the evening alone with his wife despite Volkov's shadow hovering over him. He notices how much bigger the apartment seems without Kolya there but does not regret helping Anna raise her brother. He ponders for a moment his and Anna's infertility but knows that Anna will hear nothing of medical tests. The one time he broached the subject with her, she became angry and told him that he was thinking of her as a machine that needed to be fixed.

Andrei's thoughts return to the present, and he almost cannot bear to tell Anna about his perplexing situation. He decides to share a quiet dinner with her first. As the couple talks over their spartan meal, Anna tells Andrei about her supervisor's suggestion that she take math and statistics classes. Andrei can certainly empathize with Anna, because he, too, feels the same pressure to serve on committees instead of focusing on his individual patients' treatment.

After dinner, Andrei confesses to Anna that his hospital has admitted Volkov's son as a patient. Anna, whose father lived in constant fear of Stalin's regime, trembles as if she has been electrocuted. When Andrei tells her of his colleague Russov's suspicious behavior, Anna becomes more worried, especially when Andrei confesses that Russov had taken X-rays and then had either hidden or destroyed them. Recognizing his wife's increasing anxiety, Andrei suggests that they take a walk to calm their nerves.

Later that evening as Andrei and Anna lie awake in bed, they discuss the Volkov problem. Anna agrees with Lena, the nurse who suggested that Andrei call in sick, but Andrei knows that that is not a permanent solution. He also knows Russov well enough to realize that he has probably already given his name to Volkov as the doctor who would be taking over the boy's case. Anna then suggests that she, Andrei, and Kolya flee to the dacha (the country) and stay with Andrei's uncle. Andrei argues that Kolya would suffer and that neither he nor Anna would have anything to do there. He tries to convince Anna that he must treat the boy—especially from a humanitarian standpoint—and that they both are overreacting to the situation. Anna, too tired to object, takes comfort in Andrei's arms as they make love and then drift off to sleep.

Chapter 4 Summary

As Andrei walks to work the morning after his conversation with Anna, he tries to convince himself that he is doing the right thing by treating Volkov's son; after all, he is a sick boy who desperately needs help. When Andrei arrives at the hospital and approaches the Volkov boy's room, he cannot help but notice the looming policeman from the Ministry of State Security. The police officer asks for Andrei's papers, and Andrei explains that he is the doctor who has been called in to look at the boy. He presents his papers, however, when the "giant" simply responds with "Your papers."

Andrei enters the room and notices the boy, Gorya, lying in the hospital bed with a cage over his right leg. Near his bedside, the boy's mother stands up and begins to tell Andrei about the pain her son has endured. Andrei can barely get a word in but finally manages to introduce himself. Mrs. Volkov scrutinizes Andrei, and then her sense of decorum returns, and she gives him her name. Andrei needs to examine the boy without his mother speaking for him; so he suggests that she go get some coffee or tea and relax. He uses just enough flattery about her tireless devotion to her son, and she soon acquiesces.

As Andrei begins his examination, he tries to connect with the young boy. He notices the boy's toy trains and tells him that his father used to work on trains in Siberia. The boy tries to pretend that he is uninterested, but Andrei soon breaks through. When he asks Gorya if he can remember when his leg began hurting, the boy tells him that he believes the pain is from a friend's tennis racket whack. When Andrei pulls back the sheet and cage to examine Gorya's leg, he sees a red, swollen area just below his knee. Andrei immediately begins to diagnose silently while he continues to ask Gorya questions. Gorya explains that his leg has actually been red and swollen for a while, but he is afraid to limp in front of his father, lest he appear weak. Andrei has to order blood tests and X-rays since Russov will not even admit that he performed tests on the boy. A little later, as Andrei studies the X-rays, he sees exactly what he had feared—a tumor growing deep in the boy's leg bone. He and Sofya, the technician, agree that the tumor looks like an osteosarcoma (an aggressive cancerous tumor); he cannot be sure, however, until a biopsy is performed.

When Andrei returns home later that day, he can hear Kolya's piano playing from outside the apartment and dreads having to tell Kolya to keep down the noise because their obnoxious neighbors will file a complaint against them. Ever diplomatic, Andrei convinces Kolya to play a quiet piece by Mozart, and as he relaxes to the sound of Kolya's playing, he ponders his next option in regards to Volkov's son.

Chapter 5 Summary

After Andrei examines Gorya, he consults Dr. Brodskaya whom he greatly respects for her surgical skills. She seems unfazed when Andrei tells her that Gorya is Volkov's son and agrees to talk to the family. Though he already knows the answer, Andrei asks her if there is any chance that the tumor is benign, and she replies that she doubts that.

Later that night, Brodskaya stops by Andrei's office and informs him that it is impossible for her to treat the boy satisfactorily. As the surgeon explains further, Andrei realizes that he will be forced to take charge of the case. Brodskaya did her best to explain the nature of Gorya's tumor, but the Volkovs insist on Andrei treating their child. Brodskaya believes that their...

(The entire section is 542 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

As Andrei carefully handles the Volkov case at the hospital, Anna works tirelessly on her dress for the hospital ball. A wealthier friend, Julia, has loaned her a sewing machine for a week, so Anna has to finish the dress in that time period. As she sews, she reflects on her relationship with Julia. They had grown up together as little girls, and Julia had worshipped Anna's father because of his storytelling skills. When Julia's mother abandoned the family, Anna thought that Julia had moved away with her father and possibly died during the siege. However, weeks earlier, Anna had a chance encounter with Julia who is now happily married to an award-winning filmmaker and appears to be doing better than most of her peers.

...

(The entire section is 453 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

After Andrei convinces Volkov to allow Dr. Brodskaya to handle Gorya's biopsy and surgery, he nervously waits for the biopsy results. Later that evening, Brodskaya calls him to her office. Her news, while not surprising, disheartens Andrei. Gorya's tumor has grown into the soft tissue of his leg; so his leg must be amputated above the knee. Brodskaya explains that while there is no sign of the cancer spreading to Gorya's lungs, they have no way of knowing if tiny cancerous cells have begun to infest other parts of Gorya's body. Andrei knows that he must take the news to the Volkovs even though Brodskaya has offered to do so. She seems to fear nothing and care little about the politics of the Volkov case; however, Andrei has come to...

(The entire section is 660 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

Chapter 8 begins with Andrei returning home after Gorya's operation. He is physically and emotionally drained yet comforted by the sight of Anna cooking when he enters their apartment. Andrei asks Anna if they have any vodka left, and she knows that he has had an extremely rough day. As Andrei tries to unwind, he asks Anna if she will model her dress for him. She eventually agrees to do so because she can tell that Andrei needs a distraction from his work's pressure. Andrei is delighted with how Anna looks in the dress and they begin to dance dreamily around the apartment. Kolya bursts into their small flat seconds later, and their intimate moment ends.

As the small family sits down for dinner, Kolya asks how "that boy"...

(The entire section is 486 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

As Gorya recovers from his surgery in his private room, the hospital nurse assigned to change his bandages warily watches the boy's mother. Lyuba does not agree with the boy being babied and wishes that his parents would allow him to be in a ward with other recovering children so that he would be motivated to recover more quickly. Although she has not worked with Dr. Brodskaya before, Lyuba cannot help but appreciate the doctor's no-nonsense, practical personality. Once, when Lyuba was watching over Gorya, the doctor entered the room to see Mrs. Volkov spoon feeding her son. Dr. Brodskaya orders the mother to put down the spoon and begins to go through Gorya's rehabilitation plan. Lyuba can see that Mrs. Volkov is only pretending...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

After Andrei and Anna's somewhat refreshing weekend in the country, they both return to the oppression of the city. While Andrei fights a losing battle at work to convince the Medical Board to hire another physician, Anna dutifully sits in the statistics course for which her supervisor enrolled her. Her mind wanders, and her bones ache from boredom. To pass time, she ponders everything but the lecturer words. If she were home, she could think of a myriad of tasks to occupy her time. She knows that she should pay attention, that Morozova will most likely ask her questions about the course when she returns to the nursery, but she simply cannot force herself to listen. Instead, she begins to dwell on the Volkov boy's progress and...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

Chapter 11 begins with Anna and Andrei attending the much-anticipated hospital ball. As Anna watches Andrei socialize with his colleagues, she realizes that the night is drawing to a close. She thinks back to earlier in the evening when she had excitedly slipped on her new gown and studied her reflection in the mirror. She knows that her thirty-four years are beginning to show and views herself as just another Leningrader moving on the conveyor belt from birth to death. Shaking off such depressing thoughts, Anna dwells instead on meeting Andrei at the ball in a short while. She has to meet him there because he must complete his rounds right before the ball's commencement. Even though Anna knows that she and Andrei deserve this time...

(The entire section is 447 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

As Anna stands outside at the nursery, she diligently works to make sure that all of the children get involved. Two little girls cling to her skirt; so Anna tries to coax them to run a race with her. As she gets ready to run, her coworker Irina approaches and reminds her that she should not be running in her condition. Anna shrugs off the warning, races the little girls, and then returns to talk to Irina. Young and cynical, Irina cannot help but complain about their supervisor's new initiative; it's always some new regulation that requires Anna and Irina to spend more time recording information and relaying unwelcome "requests" to the children's parents. After venting for a minute, Irina asks Anna how she is feeling. Anna is only a...

(The entire section is 532 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

As Chapter 13 begins, Andrei is led into a room which Volkov has claimed as his own. Andrei cannot help but notice that even at the hospital, Volkov is in his element. He sits behind the desk in the office and begins his interrogation without making small talk. After he makes it clear to Andrei that he is holding him responsible for Gorya's increasingly poor health, Volkov reveals the ultimate conclusion of his argument: the conviction of Dr. Brodskaya. He reminds Andrei that he recommended Brodskaya to perform Gorya's surgery. He also snidely shows that he knows that Brodskaya has left Leningrad for the city of Yerevan but that she is not out of reach. Andrei realizes that Volkov is laying out his case against him and Brodskaya...

(The entire section is 549 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

When Andrei arrives at home after his harrowing "interview" with Volkov, he wearily sits down and Anna sinks down beside him. Kolya, who normally has a smart comment for everything, says nothing. Andrei explains plainly that Gorya is dying and that Volkov has already identified his scapegoats. Andrei wants Anna and Kolya to go to the country and stay with Galya, Anna's mother's friend, but Anna will consent only to Kolya going. Andrei wants Anna to denounce him to save herself, if the situation comes to that, but Anna cannot see herself ever betraying her husband.

Later that night, Anna cannot sleep, so she peers out the window and imagines what it will be like if they are the recipients of a late night visit from...

(The entire section is 619 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

By Chapter 15, Anna has arrived at Galya's cottage in the country to drop off Kolya. While she and Andrei hope that Kolya's stay there will be short lived and that all their lives will soon return to normal, they both realize that their situation is indeed grave. Fortunately, Galya had previously decided to spend her first winter in the country. Tired of the city and the constant threat of spies and turncoats, Galya assures Anna that she will be glad to have Kolya for company during the winter and for help with the physical toil of farm life. Anna lightheartedly warns Galya that she might have to prod Kolya to work, but the older Galya is confident that Kolya will respond maturely to his responsibilities. She and Anna have already...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

As Anna and Andrei adjust to life without Kolya, they fall into a tense routine. Even though he is not allowed to go to the hospital, Andrei awakens at the same time each day and gets ready. He works on a letter in his defense that he plans to send so that he can be reinstated. He refuses to think of his situation as anything other than a misunderstanding that he must clear up. Meanwhile, Anna warily observes her husband. He hasn't shaved in several days, and she knows that the boredom and sense of helplessness weigh on him.

After Anna leaves for work, Andrei evaluates his situation. While he might be "fortunate" like Anna's father, who was reprimanded but never arrested, the powers that be have still taken away his...

(The entire section is 558 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

As Anna and Andrei’s lives continue to unravel, Andrei lies awake at night wondering if each car he hears on the street below is coming for him. Very early one morning, his worst fear becomes reality when he hears a large vehicle screech to a halt in front of their apartment building. Andrei knows he has no time to spare. He rouses Anna and tells her to get dressed. He reminds her to go straight to the country if he is arrested.

Boots stop outside their door, and Anna and Andrei hear a forceful thumping. Andrei opens the door to an officer and three soldiers who inform him that they have a warrant for his arrest. They immediately enter the apartment and ransack it, looking for seditious or incriminating evidence....

(The entire section is 448 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

Anna tries to decide on a defense plan for Andrei. She considers going to the hospital first but then realizes she must continue her work schedule. She and Andrei will need the income, especially because he has not been paid since his suspension. As Anna readies for work, she plans to go to Professor Maslov’s house later. Maslov had always been kind to Andrei and worked with him for years at the hospital; Anna believes he can advise her on the best course of action. Realizing that she needs to eat for the baby’s sake, Anna begins heating up porridge, but her mind returns to Andrei, and she wonders if he has had anything to eat. The smell of burning food catches her attention, and Anna forces herself to focus on the task at...

(The entire section is 743 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

After storming away from Professor Maslov’s apartment, Anna decides to visit her friend Julia before she goes home. Julia is married to a renowned filmmaker who has many powerful friends. Anna is relieved when Julia answers the door and warmly invites her in. Julia’s husband, Georgii, is at a meeting, so Anna will be able to speak freely to her friend. While Julia prepares tea, Anna takes in the luxurious furnishings in her childhood friend’s apartment. It is tastefully and artfully decorated. As Anna compliments Julia on her decorating style, she begins to feel faint, and Julia notices her paleness. She gets Anna to sit down, and Anna reluctantly confesses that Andrei has been arrested. Julia is troubled for her friend, but...

(The entire section is 643 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

Chapter 20 begins with an unwavering Anna waiting outside of one of Leningrad's prisons, where she assumes Andrei has been taken. After waiting in the cold for hours simply to find out Andrei's location and hoping to give him a small parcel, Anna is brusquely informed that Andrei has been relocated to a prison in Moscow. Desperate to find out as much information as she can, Anna starts to ask questions but is pushed aside for the next person in line. A veteran "visitor" whispers to Anna that she needs to be careful not to draw attention to herself, and Anna finally wanders away from the line of people. She is at a loss as to what to do and almost concedes that her friend Julia and Andrei were right in telling her to disappear....

(The entire section is 735 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

A week passes since Andrei's time on the conveyor belt, and he has fallen into a routine of sorts. The guards fetch him each morning so that he can use the bathroom and wash. One morning, Andrei sees initials carved into a bar of soap, and while it might seem silly to many, the thought that someone else wanted to be remembered by crudely scratched initials strongly strikes Andrei. Before he has a chance to carve his own initials, the guards call for him, but the next day he quickly engraves the soap with "AMA." Although he worries afterward that the guards will see what he has done, he does not regret his action because he desperately needs any type of communication he can get.

As Andrei gets to know the guards by...

(The entire section is 445 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

As Andrei is finally allowed into the inner room of the office where he has been waiting, he is not surprised to see Volkov sitting behind a wide oak desk. Volkov dismisses Andrei's "escorts" and prompts him to sit down. Andrei notices that his seat is, of course, lower than Volkov's. After weeks of interrogation, Andrei has learned most of the security officers' intimidation tactics. Volkov silently takes in Andrei's battered appearance and acknowledges that he would barely know the doctor now. It does not take long, however, for Volkov to begin his own interrogation of Andrei. He drones on about "murderers in white coats" and relates the tale of two upper level Soviet leaders who had recently died. Volkov claims they were...

(The entire section is 870 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

Chapter 23 opens in Gorya Volkov's room. Because his lung tumors have grown so much, Gorya must sleep propped upright in order to breathe. As Volkov looks in on his ill boy, he knows that Gorya feels no pain. He is full of morphine and seems to be sleeping peacefully. Volkov's wife sits beside their son, and she is sleeping lightly. Without her makeup and styled hair, she reminds Volkov of the peasant girl he married years earlier. Volkov does not wake either his wife or Gorya. He wants them both to get their rest. Dressed in civilian clothing, Volkov takes one last look at his family and quietly leaves the room. He notices that no one guards his son's room and silently acknowledges that his intimation earlier in the evening was...

(The entire section is 445 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

In the country, Anna knows that her brother misses Leningrad, but he does not talk about it. She has noticed a remarkable change in Kolya. When she arrived in the country, Kolya was already more mature and serious. He seems to know that it is now his duty to take care of Anna since Andrei cannot. He is proud to show Anna the work that he has down around Galya's small cottage and wants to talk about everything but Andrei. He finally asks his sister what will happen if the security officers come to the country looking for them. Anna reassures him that she doesn't believe that they will. She had been careful to give the caretakers the impression that she was heading east to where Andrei's family was from. It takes a while to convince...

(The entire section is 785 words.)

Chapter 25 Summary

Andrei knows little of what is going on in the outside world. After leaving Volkov's office, he was soon "released" for the labor camp and put on a train with other prisoners headed to Siberia. As the men travel in the crowded boxcar, Andrei observes his fellow passengers. One man, Vasya, is seriously ill, most likely with a form of dysentery. Andrei does his best to make Vasya comfortable, but he knows that the older man will most likely not make it to their destination. Andrei feels fortunate to have Kostya, the former engineer, on this trip with him. Kostya, who had arranged the men in the first holding cell back at the prison, is once again taking charge. Andrei decides to lie down for a while and is thankful that he has been...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Chapters 26-27 Summary

Chapter 26 begins with Anna already having delivered her little girl. Although her baby is eight days old, she has not decided on a name yet. Galya suggests "Vera" which is Anna's mother's name, but Anna wants to think of her mother and child separately. She hopes that when Kolya returns from working on their cottage that he might have a suggestion. He has matured even more since Anna gave birth to Kolya's niece and has promised to take care of Anna and the baby until Andrei returns.

As Anna adapts to life as a mother, Galya and Kolya spend more time working outside of the cottage, but when Galya is inside, she bemoans the fact that her radio has broken. Even though she moved to the country for a quieter, less...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear