Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Could you kill someone? Someone you love?
Paris, 1938. Twin sisters are divided by fierce loyalties and by a terrible secret. The drums of war are beating and France is poised, ready to fall. One sister is an aviatrix, the other is a socialite and they both have something to prove and something to hide.
Many thanks to Simon and Schuster UK via NetGalley for my copy of The Betrayal to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.
Alongside Lesley Pearse and Lucinda Riley, Kate Furnivall has to be a favourite author of mine. I have read everything she has written since her incredible début The Russian Concubine. Her writing, the plot lines and the character development have only grown stronger with each book and her last publication The Liberation blew me away and was one of my top books of that year. Now she is back with an equally as good book,The Betrayal. I think the dark, muted tones used on the beautiful cover in part sum up the feelings throughout the story. Ones of tension, suspicion, fear and claustrophobia. There was a real sense of overwhelming pressure throughout, that one little slip or error would see things go very much awry. With the eventual consequences hard to believe or maybe not given the period the book focuses on. I felt this was different from Kate's previous books as there weren't dramatic events on every page, instead this is a subtle exploration of the various players at work in a much bigger game than is first known. There is a concentrated effort on character development, an attempt to get under the skin of certain people in order to encourage them to unveil themselves and bring their secrets, connections and game playing to the fore.
The book does have an opening which leaves you desperately wanting to read on and find out all the answers instantly. Of course, much to the frustration of this reader we don't get that, there wouldn't have been much of a story if all was revealed too soon. The opening line 'There is blood on my hands' had me more than intrigued. It is in 1930 in Paris, our main female protagonist Romy wakes up to an altered world. Devastation and turmoil have struck and she has no recollection as to how she came to be in the situation she now finds herself in. What has happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? Was she some how involved? Romy has a complete memory block and I suppose this is what our minds do when something so overwhelming occurs that we can’t simple process it. Romy will have to live with the repercussions of her actions with regard to this situation for many years to some. It will eat away at her bit by bit until she finds retribution and the truth. No sense of calm and peace will ever prevail for her until justice is served.
So many questions and many more arise during the course of the story. The answers remain resolutely locked away in Romy's memory and will deeply affect her for many years. Florence her twin, happens upon the developing circumstances and discovers the horror, but this knowledge needs to be known to as few people as possible. As there is such a bond and unique connection between twins, Florence would do anything for her sister, not to see her come to harm even if what has occurred is the actual truth. Suffice to say more lies and deceit ensue on behalf of both women. Another question arises can they cope with such a huge burden placed upon their shoulders? The opening chapters have a very important bearing on the remainder of the book, they form the backbone of the story as it is always simmering away in Romy's mind - what did actually happen? Was she really capable of a deed that would shock and inspire horror in many? Romy's motivation to seek the truth is always ever present, she can't rest until she knows. Peace and acceptance will always evade her until she does so.
Fast forward to Paris in 1938 and great changes have occurred, Hitler and the Nazi's are stirring in Germany. Little does the world know the terror, horror and destruction that will follow in following years. Romaine Duchamps, Romy, is very much a changed woman as she flies planes to various locations to help out within a much bigger picture. Romy loves flying. She feels free and away from the shackles, memories and sense of being caged when she is on firm ground. I thought Romy was vastly different from when we had first encountered her. She was an independent woman, going against the grain of society at the time. She wasn't married and at home tending to children or entertaining guests. She needed that sense of freedom that flying brought her. She felt trapped by past events and had to find something that would take her mind away from things. She was brave, full of spirit, strength and determination and in a male dominated world she was a woman who stood out. She was fearless never shirking away from situations that many woman would run screaming from. She knew the bigger picture of world events and wanted to attempt to put a halt to things in some small way.
As events rage away in Spain due to the dominance of Franco, Romy wanted to help the people there too, to prevent another dictator extending their reign of power. Flying the planes brought danger and the threat of discovery but she was willing to do whatever was asked of her. Lies and deception in this case were an absolute necessity. Leo Martel is a close friend and puts his trust in Romy that she can carry out tasks to perfection. He was protective but had a job to do as well and loved the real maleness about him that he cared for Romy and maybe not just in a professional capacity. Romy is a woman who has to live with her lies and untruths, these being the lies created that eventful day in the study. I sensed that by taking on such gruelling hours and dangerous quests that she was punishing herself but why do so considering she didn't know the exact events or the reasons behind them. Memory is a powerful thing and I hoped some of it would come back to Romy so she could find resolution.
What of Florence? I was even more surprised to find out she now she lived an extensive life of privilege and was married with a daughter Chloe aged six. Her husband Roland Roussel is a minister in the Ministry of Defence. I couldn't make head nor tail of him and never could figure out his motives throughout the story. Were they genuine? Was something else going on? The relationship between himself and Florence seemed strange and very much strained. There was no openness between them. I quickly realised nothing could be taken at face value. Every character, every word spoken may have said one thing but what wasn't spoken or mentioned spoke volumes. I just wasn't astute enough to pull the pieces of the puzzle together and when the big reveal came and the action ramped up significantly in the latter half of the book I was shocked. But shocked in a pleasing way to have had the wool very much pulled over my eyes and that I was kept guessing until all eventually became clear.
Romy has to be on top of her game at all times, keeping an eye on all the players. She knows more than she lets on. Whereas Florence became the complete opposite. She became withdrawn, secretive, cut off and lives with a fear that could tear her world apart. She keeps ploughing on, she has an ultimate goal in mind and even if it forces people apart and upsets the some what stable apple cart she will do this. A lack of trust, mystery, unrest, darkness, unease and corruption dominate the book. The tyranny of dictators is becoming ever more prevalent and though Romy, Martel and their associates are bit players in an ever widening web they do their part to perfection.
Menace, threats, plots and ploys weave back and forth and there were a few points I did become slightly confused but it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of a very well written, intriguing story. Fire, grit and determination are alive in the heart and mind of Romy and I hoped she would find solace and would be able to draw a firm line under the past and resolve more issues in the present. Romy has guilt eating away at her but also a deep responsibility she feels to her sister given she helped her cover up something which if came to light could change their lives forever. For this she deserved nothing but admiration and I loved her character the most as she was plucky and full of courage in the face of so much adversity and enigmas floating around.
The Betrayal was a very good read with an assured pace, rising tension and with a super crafty twist. The Liberation slightly edges this one out for me but only by the narrowest of margins. Romy was an intriguing character to read about and I felt I was very much on a journey with her and I hope many other readers will pick this up and tag along with Romy. She is one remarkable women you wouldn't forget in a hurry. I'm already looking forward to Kate's next book The Deception which will be published in August of this year.
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