Book review: The Betrayal by Kate Furnivall

The Betrayal by Kate Furnivall
The Betrayal by Kate Furnivall

Parisian twins Florence and Romy Duchamps are bound to each other like an umbilical cord… but can their love survive secrets, tragedy and a shocking betrayal as France edges towards war?

Kate Furnivall, author of eight superb historical novels, including The Liberation and the international bestseller The Russian Concubine, delivers one of her most powerful stories yet in this thriller set in 1938 in a volatile city set to fall into the iron fist of the Nazis.

Starring twins on opposite sides of the political and social spectrum – sisters who share a deadly secret that casts a dark shadow over their lives – The Betrayal is a captivating page-turner brimming with love and loss, danger and deceit, manipulation and menace.

Paris in 1938 is an uneasy and uncertain city teetering precariously on the edge of war. Twins Florence and Romy Duchamps are divided not just by their loyalty to different sides of the ever-widening political abyss but by a terrible event eight years ago which ended in tragedy and which they have kept secret ever since.

Now Romy, a rare breed of female aviatrix, is consumed by guilt and constant nightmares, and lives, loves and gambles recklessly to blot out the past. She regularly flies her flimsy Gipsy Moth plane over the Pyrenees on dangerous missions to try to help the Republicans win the Spanish Civil War and defeat Franco’s fascists.

Her sister Florence, cool, elegant and proud, is now married to wealthy French government official Roland Roussel and mother to six-year-old Chloé, and lives in splendour in a fin-de-siècle apartment among the city’s rich and powerful.

Despite their enduring love for each other, the sisters live in different worlds and their relationship has been tested further as Florence’s husband is working – some would say collaborating – with a group of Third Reich envoys on what he claims is a bid to hammer out a peace agreement.

Roussel encourages Romy to befriend Horst Baumeister, the ‘face of Germany in Paris’ and a man who watches Romy ‘like a scientist in a laboratory might observe a species of moth.’

Unsure of Horst’s motives and Roussel’s schemes, and with Florence seeming to support German ambitions, Romy also learns that a killer is stalking the streets, hunting down the Paris network that is helping the Spanish Republican fight.

With her life in danger and Florence almost like a stranger, is the past finally going to catch up with the sisters before France falls?

The Betrayal is a pulsating story packed with historical detail and atmosphere, and bristling with the heart-thumping drama and emotional intelligence that have become a hallmark of Furnivall’s writing.

As we are swept away on a rollercoaster ride with Florence and Romy through a cataclysmic period of European history, Furnivall’s addictive narrative delivers both an epic thriller and a riveting exploration of the impact of change and upheaval on family relationships.

Through brilliant storytelling and a breathtaking sense of time place, she captures beautifully the tensions, suspicions and dangers of pre-war Paris as secrets from the past – secrets that both bind and divide the two sisters – are slowly revealed.

Add on a stunning twist in the tail and a cast of intriguing, exquisitely portrayed characters, and The Betrayal is this winter’s must read!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)