7 books with absolute grab-you-by-the-throat punch-you-in-the-gut betrayals

After all the cheerful, happily ever afters (and not so happily ever afters) in my Valentine’s Day post I thought I’d bring the tone of this blog back to a place I’m more comfortable – with some good old stabbings in the back.

There are of course a lot of massive spoilers to follow so proceed with caution.

  1. When Mr Willoughby abandons Marianne in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby.

I have such a huge crush on Mr Willoughby. He’s so suave and charming and no wonder Marianne fell so madly in love with him. And it’s all going so perfect with trips out in his carriage, bitching about Colonel Brandon and the definite suggestion that a proposal is coming. Until he disappears of course. I can’t put this any higher on the list because Mr Willoughby didn’t go into it intending to betray Marianne and break her heart. He really did fall in love with her. He just loved money more.

  1. When Briony claims Robbie’s the rapist in Atonement by Ian McEwan


“You saw him with your own eyes?”

“Yes I saw him. I saw him.”

Oh Briony. You make one false accusation and with it ruin the lives of two people forever. So she was only a child with a crush and I’m not sure she entirely knew what she was doing but the outcomes are so horrendous for Robbie and Cecelia that I just can’t forgive her.

  1. When Snape kills Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with Christmas presents

“Severus… Please…”

This is only making it to fifth place because, of course, it turns out to be more euthanasia than actual murder, and done with Dumbledore’s full consent, and for really rather noble reasons. But the impact this had when I first read it certainly makes it deserving of a place on the list. Whether Snape is a good guy or a bad guy is one of the key themes running through the whole series and it was just so clever of JK Rowling to put you firmly in the I Hate Severus Snape camp with one book still to go. Of course it wasn’t going to be as simple as that. It never is in the world of JK Rowling. But I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I was incensed. How could Snape do that to Dumbledore? When he was the one person who’d trusted him implicitly? And then to just kill him without even the slightest hesitation?

  1. When Angel Clare runs off to South America in Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Never in her life – she could swear it from the bottom of her soul – had she ever intended to do wrong; yet these harsh judgements had come.

A more quiet betrayal than some of the others on this list but probably the one that affected me the most deeply. I feel so conflicted about Angel Clare – he was so sweet when he was first flirting with Tess, and they could have been so happy together. My mum is convinced it’s Tess’s fault for ever telling him about her past but I don’t think she could have lived with herself if she hadn’t told him. And I don’t think it was unreasonable of her to think that he might actually be able to come to terms with it. He had after all just told her a similar story about himself. But in the 1800s the standards for men and women were not at all equal and instead of forgiving Tess he packs up and moves to another continent leaving Tess destitute and practically throwing her into Alec’s arms.

  1. When Neely steals Anne’s husband in Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

“Neely would resent it? I’m your wife. And I’m her best friend. How could she resent me?”

Oooh this is cold. Neely is one of my absolute favourite characters but I would not for a second want her as a friend. You can be friends for years, give her her big break in show business, but if she decides she wants your husband she’s going to damn well take him.

  1. When Anne seduces Henry VIII while her sister is giving birth to his child in The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

“We’re supposed to be on the same side.”

Philippa Gregory’s books are just full of betrayals, particularly anything involving Henry VIII. But it’s not the ones that end in execution that really get me, it’s always the ones about love. And although this one is a similar betrayal to that in Valley of the Dolls, Anne takes it one step further by doing it to her own sister. I love the stories that Philippa Gregory manages to weave around the historical facts. In fact they’re so absorbing  that I can’t help but slightly forget their not true. I used to think Anne Boleyn sounded awesome – a strong-willed woman in a sea of shrinking violets. Now I see nothing but a stone-cold bitch. Although of course she gets more than her comeuppance at the end when Henry chops her head off.

  1. Practically anything that happens in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

“Jamie Lannister sends his regards.”

Where to even begin with this one? First Littlefinger turns on Ned. Then Joffery chops off Ned’s head. Then the Boltons and the Freys collude to kill off most of the remaining Starks. Then Shae testifies against Tyrion and sleeps with his father. And I’m sure there are a ton of others I’ve forgotten about. And still more to come what with George R R Martin being as ruthless as he is. If he ever gets round to actually publishing Winds of Winter that is.


5 thoughts on “7 books with absolute grab-you-by-the-throat punch-you-in-the-gut betrayals

  1. Awesome list! I haven’t read some of the books here but… YESSS TO ATONEMENT. That book (and movie) affected me so deeply. Have you watched the commentary for Atonement? It’s the only director’s commentary I’ve ever watched (aha) but it’s so so good and their analyses of the characters are incredible, especially James McAvoy’s analyses of Briony in the moment that you mentioned!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂

      Ooh interesting. The only film I’ve ever watched the commentary for is actually Finding Nemo (wonder what that says about my personality!) but I really should for Atonement seen as I claim it’s my favourite film. And from what you say it certainly sounds like it’s worth watching. So I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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