Review: I Must Betray You

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?

I can’t believe I didn’t write a review for this earlier! Especially since it was one of my favorites of 2022. Whoops!

My initial interest in this book is because it takes place in Romania, and since my grandfather lived there for a part of his childhood (he was born in Hungary), I knew right away I wanted to read it. Plus, the synopsis itself drew me in. I can’t say I was disappointed with this book at all.

You can feel the tension of living in communist Romania through Cristian’s narration. There are limited resources and you don’t know who to trust; you can’t even be sure if you can trust your own family. Cristian himself becomes a double agent as an informer, but not because he wants to, and finds out who among him is also an informer. I felt bad for him being put into that position. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to live through this time in Romania.

Cristian, his grandfather, and Liliana were all such good characters. They weren’t afraid to put themselves in danger for those they loved, but also did so in a crafty way to save their loved ones. The other characters are hard to like because you don’t know if they’re loyal to their families or the state. It’s heartbreaking enough to think about families betraying one another in fiction, but to think about this happening in real life… I can’t. But it did.

There’s not much I can say about this book without giving a lot of it away. Of course, the real-life part of it is in history books or can be looked up online, so that’s not really a spoiler, but the fictional aspect is what I don’t want to give away. I will say that I think it’s a must-read, especially if you don’t know much about communism or for some God-forsaken reason think it’s a good idea. I, for one, wasn’t able to put this book down while reading it, and it was amazing all the way up through the epilogue!

It’s truly a powerful read for fans of historical fiction, or any reader, really.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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