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Season of Betrayal Hardcover – October 1, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lara McCauley, hopeful but, as she notes, "no longer naïve" at 29, follows her war correspondent husband, Mac, to Beirut in 1983, when fault lines of international terrorism (then in its embryonic stages) ran through the city just as surely as the Green Line that separated Lebanon's warring factions. Lara, curious and loving, has little in common with seasoned journalist Mac, who has revealed himself over the years of their relationship as a selfish, possessive and abusive bully. When Mac begins an affair with his Lebanese translator, Lara finds a friend in another outsider: the mysterious Thomas Warkowski, a freelance journalist who's rumored to be a spy, and thought to be gay. With her marriage unraveling, and the city's mounting body count dismissed internationally as "Beirut-bang-bang," Lara beds Thomas with far-reaching and catastrophic consequences. Setting the story against the backdrop of a society cruelly tearing itself apart (and punctuating it with the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks at Beirut International Airport), debut novelist Robertson draws a powerful story out of Lara's first-person narration. The author solidly dramatizes the ironies and ambiguities, moral and otherwise, of Lara's desperate encounters. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


*Starred Review.* Lara McCauley is trapped in a failed marriage, but can't admit it yet. Her husband, Mac, an international news correspondent, is great company in public, but a bully and a womanizer in private. When Mac is assigned to Beirut in January 1983, Lara goes with him, but they barely settle in before Mac starts another affair. Lara tries but can't adjust to life in the middle of a war zone: she is perpetually terrified. Then, on October 23, 241 Americans and 58 French soldiers are massacred in suicide bombings at the U.S. Marine barracks and the quarters of the French Multi-National Force. Events move to a violent close, leaving Lara both betrayer and betrayed. There are no heroes in this wrenching novel; no one behaves well and everyone's motives are suspect. With years of experience in news broadcasting, including a year in Beirut as a stringer for CBS radio, Robertson writes with authenticity about a city and a people destroyed by civil war. The contrast she draws between the grand scale of the Lebanese civil war and the small scale of Lara's battle to win back Mac is quite effective. An exceptional first novel, gripping and real. Enthusiastically recommended for general collections. David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- Library Journal

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


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tatra Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977614204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977614202
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,728,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret Lowrie Robertson was an International Correspondent in CNN's London Bureau from 1993 to 2002, covering British news and politics and other European stories. During the first Gulf War in 1991, she was one of the first female reporters to broadcast live from inside Iraq during the Allied bombing campaign. From 1989 to 1993, she was a reporter for CNN based in Chicago. Earlier in her career, she covered the Middle East for CBS News, based in Cairo. Before shifting to TV, she freelanced for CBS Radio News from Beirut, for National Public Radio from Poland and contributed stories to The New York Times from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Robertson is a graduate of Boston University and began her career as a copyboy at the New York Times. She was born in Washington, DC and raised in Virginia. She is married to CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson, widely known for his war reporting from around conflict zones around the world. They have two children and live in London. Season of Betrayal is her first book.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Whether you like fiction or non-fiction, "Season of Betrayal" will draw you in. Margaret Lowrie Robertson writes a compelling tale of human drama, intrigue and relationships but wraps it in a slice of Beirut that historians and journalists would be proud of. She demonstrates a familiarity with the city and subject that could only come from first hand experience. The words on the tongues of the denizens of the post-Marine-Barracks-Bombing Beirut ring oh so genuine. Her style is spare yet she communicates so much with so few words...not surprising given her experience as a TV Journalist. "Season of Betrayal" delivers a contex and understanding of the Mideast that you don't realize you've gotten because the story keeps the pages turning so fast. This is a great one.
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Format: Paperback
In the throes of civil war, 1983 Beirut is a hotbed of warring factions and competing interests, the Americans about to engage in a peacekeeping mission in a place that has known no peace. Journalists gather at common watering holes, in this case The Commodore Hotel, sharing the tales of their wanderings over the globe reporting world events and cheering one another after brutal days best faced in the oblivion of drink. New arrivals, Americans Barrett McCauley and his wife, Lara, join this eclectic band of brothers, most of them, like Mac, addicted to the danger and an urgency to tell a story that can only be written by observers of the daily carnage. At the Commodore, the unofficial headquarters of the Beirut press corps, Lara makes friends with Thomas, a bit of an outcast now that the McCauley's have arrived.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Season of Betrayal is narrated by Larissa "Lara" McCauley looking back twenty years earlier to 1983 when she and her journalist husband (Mac) lived in Beirut. Her first introduction to the country was witnessing the slaying of a family removed from their vehicle at a check point. During her visit, Beirut continued to be filled with a constant barrage of gun fire and bombings that left her frazzled.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Margaret Lowrie Robertson has written a compelling story with profound psychological insights into a crumbling society and an unraveling relationship.

John DeDakis

CNN Senior Copy Editor, "The Situation Room"

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A rare masterpiece. While learning a lot about the Lebanese war 1983, one is confronted in brutal honesty with the unfathomable depth of the human ego, its resulting emotions and actions, and the far-reaching and mostly unforeseeable consequences thereof. This story shook me to the core of my being. I finished reading it a few weeks ago and it still haunts me.
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Format: Hardcover
A wonderful glimpse into war reporting and the effects it has on the lives of the journalists in the trenches. Highly relevant to today's issues. Also, reminded me of Joan Didion's work. Looking forward to seeing what Robertson turns her talents to next.
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