Stalin's Daughter

Stalin's Daughter

The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

Book - 2015
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"The award-winning author of Villa Air-Bel returns with a painstakingly researched, revelatory biography of Svetlana Stalin, a woman fated to live her life in the shadow of one of history's most monstrous dictators--her father, Josef Stalin. Born in the early years of the Soviet Union, Svetlana Stalin spent her youth inside the walls of the Kremlin. Communist Party privilege protected her from the mass starvation and purges that haunted Russia, but she did not escape tragedy--the loss of everyone she loved, including her mother, two brothers, aunts and uncles, and a lover twice her age, deliberately exiled to Siberia by her father. As she gradually learned about the extent of her father's brutality after his death, Svetlana could no longer keep quiet and in 1967 shocked the world by defecting to the United States--leaving her two children behind. But although she was never a part of her father's regime, she could not escape his legacy. Her life in America was fractured; she moved frequently, married disastrously, shunned other Russian exiles, and ultimately died in poverty in Spring Green, Wisconsin. With access to KGB, CIA, and Soviet government archives, as well as the close cooperation of Svetlana's daughter, Rosemary Sullivan pieces together Svetlana's incredible life in a masterful account of unprecedented intimacy. Epic in scope, it's a revolutionary biography of a woman doomed to be a political prisoner of her father's name. Sullivan explores a complicated character in her broader context without ever losing sight of her powerfully human story, in the process opening a closed, brutal world that continues to fascinate us. Illustrated with photographs"--
Publisher: New York, NY :, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers,, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062206107
0062206109
Branch Call Number: 947.0842092 A436S
Characteristics: xviii, 741 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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g
gloryb
Sep 15, 2018

The book is divided into 2 major sections - Svetlana's childhood, youth, and early married life and then her brave flight from Russia to live in the US. I started with the second section which describes Svetlana's escape from her Russian minders in India when she approached the US embassy in India for refugee status and then started her new life in America. The book ends with Svetlana's death and her American daughter strewing Svetlana's ashes in the ocean. Sullivan uses interviews, personal letters, and media articles to write this section. She provides a disturbing picture of the Americans who used Svetlana for their own gains as opposed to those who tried to always help her with advice, accommodation, affection, and handouts. I was mystified in how easily Svetlana moved around the Eastern States and disturbed about her lack of money. I was most curious about her return to live in Russia for 3 years with her American teen in tow. I was most moved about the description of Svetlana's poor living conditions in England for a number of years. I was very interested to see how her American daughter turned out. I then returned to the first section of the book to read about Svetlana's childhood, youth, and adulthood in Russia. Sullivan relies heavily on Svetlana's memoir, "Twenty Letters to a Friend" to write about that time period in Svetlana's life. The book has a family tree for both of Svetlana's parents - most helpful in identifying who is who throughout the book. The author's explanations in the Notes section at the back of the book are most interesting to read and the lengthy bibliography made we wish for access to some of that material. The author's writing style makes the book an easy, enlightening read - finished the book in no time even though it was lengthy.

The first 2/3rds of the book were repetitive and the character development was shallow. The last third was well done, picked up the pace and Daughter became more reflective of her decisions and seemed to take more responsibility for consequences of these decisions. Overall an interesting biography but, perhaps because the young Svetlana really was an indulged "princess" I found it a bit of a slog to read.

j
JHCL
Aug 05, 2017

this is a (true) weird story i was not aware of. i knew of stalin the psychopath - and this book touches on that - but i think that is the main story and might be better thing to read about. poor svetlana - defected back and forth from ussr, to usa to ussr to usa. really. so you know what you are dealing with. worth reading for those interested in fairly recent ussr/usa history.

i
Ireadalot2
May 03, 2017

I loved this book right from the beginning. It's well researched and very readable. It may look long but the details of her life make it well worth it. It is a poor little rich girl story but her privileged upbringing left her ill prepared for life, and emotionally damaged to boot.

s
Sandra_SMB
Feb 14, 2017

Very interesting, informative and well researched. Don't be put off by the 700+ pages. It's actually an easy read; the last 100 pages are references and an index.

Because of the way she led her life, the book also includes the many people who came and went from her life. It can be a bit dizzying to keep track of everyone. But there is a list of main characters near the end of the book.

I couldn't put the book down. She lived a head spinning life in trying to disassociate herself from her father and the Soviet era, and try to create a life of her own. But her own weaknesses kept her living her entire life on the edge - in "search for love in the heart of so much darkness".

athompson10 Nov 20, 2016

Exhaustively researched, this is the life of Stalin's only daughter, who lived through her father's reign of terror and oppression, then defected to the West. Sadly her life in the West was freer but not much happier than her life in the Soviet Union. Svetlana Alliluyeva emerges as a tempestuous, intelligent, troubled woman who careened from lover to lover and place to place, seeking happiness and security but finding neither.

c
chloecat
Oct 16, 2016

Well researched, long story telling the life of Svetlana.....was aware of some of her history, but this gave me the whole story, and with many surprises. She often portrayed herself as someone who really did not know what she really wanted. Many sad episodes in her life. Made wrong choices in men!! Recommend, and stick with it.

c
ctkvlk
Sep 10, 2016

Sad but interesting book. Cannot imagine what it would be like to be the daughter of a man like that. She was a difficult but interesting person who tried hard to make her own mark in life.

quagga Jul 08, 2016

As Antennas Sileika said on CBC's The Next Chapter, "What a train wreck of a life!" I found Svetlana's impulsive grand gestures sometimes endearing and sometimes I lost patience. Her life was not ordinary and her main wish was apparently a simple one: to be loved.

u
unicorn1
May 24, 2016

This is a fantastic read! I felt that I really got to know Svetlana, or Lana as she called herself in later life. Rosemary Sullivan puts the story in context in such a way that this book is enjoyable as well as educational.

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lisatofts
Jun 02, 2015

lisatofts thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 12 and 99

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