Helen Dunmore’s Stalin era (1952) The Betrayal is a bleak look at life under the thumb of what we’ve come to know as Stalinism. The state is all-powerful and everyone is living in a house of cards which can come tumbling down at any moment. Suspicion, spitefulness, vigilance: these are the cornerstones of this repressive society. A society that is stilted and bleak. Not surprising then that the novel itself is somewhat stilted and cardboard, though there are exceptions.