I Must Betray You

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Modern Age

I Must Betray You
Author: Sepetys, Ruta
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1989
Geographic Area: Europe
Country: Romania
Topics: Cold War, Communism, Romanian Revolution
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult, Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2022

World History > Modern Age > Cold War

A #1 New York Times and National Bestseller!

A gut-wrenching, startling historical thriller about communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray.

Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.

Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys is back with a historical thriller that examines the little-known history of a nation defined by silence, pain, and the unwavering conviction of the human spirit.

Emily's Review

I am such a fan of Ruta Sepetys. I love that she chooses to write about historical moments that often go untold. This is only the second historical fiction I've come across about the Romanian Revolution in the late 1980s.

The writing in this story is so vivid, it was almost like watching a movie. I really felt like I was there, bearing witness to this moment in time. The story was so compelling, and the chapters were all so brief, that I had a hard time putting the book down. Sepetys paints a picture of a time and place where even your thoughts could be dangerous. Where everyone or anyone could inform on you for even the smallest infraction. Where you had to wait in line a whole day for one potato or a small amount of cooking oil while the leader of your country lives in extravagance. Where you speak in whispers because even your home, where you should feel safest, might be bugged. Where no one, not even you, can be trusted.

The characters were all drawn so well - I felt like they were real people. I loved that even the small side characters were given depth. I found them all to be so compelling, to see how each of them deals with living through this period. I really appreciate stories like this that portray day-to-day life amidst horrors and atrocities. Cristian and Liliana were full of so much hope, it was beautiful to see their humanity even in such a dark place.

I am so glad I read this book, and I hope to read more about that time period in Romanian history.

We also did an Arrgh Booked Club live discussion of I Must Betray You, if you'd like to watch after reading (contains full spoilers): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uauQRumiBdo

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