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Season of Betrayal Hardcover – October 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Infidelity Amid the Chaos of Beirut By STEPHEN BARBARA Setting her first novel in the artillery-pocked Beirut of 1983, Margaret Lowrie Robertson tells the story of Lara McCauley, an agreeable if nerve-racked woman who has followed her journalist husband, Anthony, into the chaos of war-torn Lebanon. The contrast between husband and wife in "Season of Betrayal" could not be more striking. While "Mac" (as her husband is called) is exhilarated by the daily violence and intrigue of the civil war, quickly landing features for his magazine and bedding beautiful Nadia from Beirut, poor Lara, our narrator, is paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. Ms. Robertson is setting up a parallel here: Just as the U.S. Marines in Beirut are confused and hesitant, headed for disaster, so too does Lara seem on course for tragedy. Her marriage will fall apart, the affair she begins in this foreign city will end badly and the enormity of the bloodshed surrounding her will prove more than she can handle.
Ms. Robertson presents a convincing view of war reporters' lives, an authenticity obviously informed by personal experience. The author is married to CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson and was herself an international correspondent in CNN's London bureau for nearly a decade.
Though she is working in fiction, Ms. Robertson writes with a crisp, clear, tough voice reminiscent of Joan Didion's journalism. Her portrait of Beirut -- at once vivid and meticulous -- displays a reporter's gift for detail. In the no-go zone called the Green Line, she writes, "plants and trees grew in the honeycombed wreckage on either side of the street, gutted by shells and gunfire, startlingly verdant." When Lara and Mac visit the home of a Beirut native, Lara realizes that they're sitting on chairs "over-upholstered in crimson plush ... so obviously new, I suspected they were purchased with this very evening in mind."
For all that, the novel does have its flaws. Chief among these is Ms. Robertson's interruptions of the story with tedious historical passages intended to illuminate the history of the Lebanese civil war. Had she found a way to weave such exposition gracefully into the story, this would have been an even more impressive debut. -- The Wall Street Journal (Weekend Edition, October 21-22)
There's an old literary bromide that says you can't pile enough problems onto your protagonist--the tougher things are, the better. As Margaret Lowrie Robertson makes her transition from CNN international correspondent to novelist in Season of Betrayal, we can be sure of one thing: She paid attention to that piece of advice.
Consider the plight of Robertson's lead character, Lara McCauley. It is 1983 in Beirut. Ravaged by civil war, this chaotically dangerous region has witnessed enough violence and sadness to shock even veteran correspondents. Lara has come to Beirut to join her husband, Mac, a globe-trotting journalist and danger junkie--one of the "good old boys" among his colleagues at the hotel bar. But as a husband, he's boorish and downright cruel--a man not shy about humiliating Lara in public or getting abusive with her in private.
Problems? Lara's just getting started. She meets the enigmatic Thomas, the son of a Polish engineer father and a Brazilian poet mother. Thomas is fluent in many languages and possesses a deep understanding of Middle Eastern culture. And he treats Lara with the attention and respect she's missing from Mac. The relationship begins as a friendship, but innuendo and cultural misperception can quickly morph into reality.
Season of Betrayal provides enough dramatic tension in the Lara-Mac-Thomas triad to satisfy most readers, but Robertson's singular accomplishment is weaving fact with fiction. The novel manages to be entertaining as well as enlightening, and helps the reader hack through the web of cultures and beliefs that make up the complex tapestry of the Middle East.
Which brings us to yet another literary chestnut that says fiction can be more instructive than facts. Season of Betrayal reinforces that notion while managing to supply readers with enough twists and turns to keep them rapidly turning the pages.
Michael Lee is literary editor of The Cape Cod Voice and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. -- BookPage
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Top Customer Reviews
An outsider herself, nothing more than Mac's wife, Lara is attracted to Thomas' sensitivity: "Fluid in the languages and cultures of other lands, he was at home in none."
Clearly Mac is a bully, a fact Lara either ignores or denies, struggling to map out a small territory in a war zone that terrifies her with its recurring carnage and mix of Syrians, Lebanese, Israeli's, Americans, Palestinians, Maronite Christians vs. Druze, Hezbollah, CIA, an ever-changing cast as volatile as the weapons that inundate the city. Her naiveté is stunning and dangerous, inciting Mac's jealousy and brutality, blundering through tradition in her need to explain the inexplicable: "There was no peace. There was no quiet. This was Beirut." Unlike her husband, ever in a hyper-vigilant state much like Frances in Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, Lara clings to Thomas for comfort, careless assumptions fueling her rationalization of the choices she makes.Read more ›
One of the first people Lara met was Thomas, who she describes as "Mac's mirror opposite". Thomas was thirty five, easy to talk too, willing to share his experience, and constantly trying to make her feel at ease while Mac would ridicule her "lack of knowledge" and naiveté. From the beginning it is easy to like Thomas and dislike Mac. Thomas was the good friend and potential lover while Mac was portrayed as the evil husband who cheated on his wife, wouldn't comfort her fears and deserted her in a foreign and volatile land for days at a time. She said that Mac "thrived on the volcanic atmosphere" of Beirut but Mac was just as volcanic as the locale. Lara would often rationalize that she was getting off easy compared to the people of Beirut.
Season of Betrayal is an appropriate title. There was more betrayal within the pages than I expected; than the obvious and it was a long season. This is my first novel by journalist and author Margaret Lowrie Robertson. This book is more than a story about the infidelities and woes of a married couple (although their acts have a great impact on the world they inhabit). Robertson has painted an interesting character study surrounded by atmosphere of foreign journalism, as well as giving Beirut and its people a face, albeit distant. Throughout she has the reader wondering how they would react under similar circumstances. She is an interesting story teller and I highly recommend reading Season of Betrayal. Reviewed by M. E. Wood.
CNN Senior Copy Editor, "The Situation Room"
Author, FAST TRACK
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was fairly confused by this book. While the writing itself was good I couldn't help but wonder throughout whether I was reading a memoir, a novel or even a kind of history book. Read morePublished 5 months ago by I. Peters
Really enjoyed this book. The historical references were accurate, and the descriptions of Beirut make it a city I have no interest in visiting!Published 8 months ago by Ripley
This book was my companion while I traveled through France and as busy as I was, it means something that I thought about it a lot while traveling. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Nicole
I am not good at book reviews, but if you are interested in the conflicts of the Middle East, then you will love this book. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Lea Darwin
For me, it was an eye opener, to discover how reporters take great risk to get to the truth and share it with the rest of the world. I truly enjoyed this book.Published 12 months ago by Mary Ann Johnston
This book held my interest from the beginning to the end. Ms. Robinson paints a portrait of a person you can really care about, caught up in her role as the wife of a journalist in... Read morePublished 12 months ago by MsWano
Beirut and the entire Lebanese "difficulty" was so complex at the time of the setting of this story. The amazing thing is that this author unraveled it correctly!Published 13 months ago by Susan Francis