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Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

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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 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 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.


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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 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 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.

30 review for Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    My FAVOURITE book of the year . From the first sentence Of this book I was hooked.................... What would it mean to be born Stalin's daughter, to carry the weight of that name for a lifetime and never be free of it? From her days in the Kremlin, to her defection to the US Svetlana Alliluyeva's life is a fascinating and an emotional read both historically and psychologically. The title of this book is not an exaggeration, Svetlana Alliluyeva's life was extraordinary and tumultuou My FAVOURITE book of the year . From the first sentence Of this book I was hooked.................... What would it mean to be born Stalin's daughter, to carry the weight of that name for a lifetime and never be free of it? From her days in the Kremlin, to her defection to the US Svetlana Alliluyeva's life is a fascinating and an emotional read both historically and psychologically. The title of this book is not an exaggeration, Svetlana Alliluyeva's life was extraordinary and tumultuous and Rosemary Sullivan's research and writing is outstanding. I found this a compelling biography, packed full of history, fast paced with plenty of emotion . I had the whisper sync version on kindle which enabled me to read and listen to this book. I perfer to read historical books but loved listening to the pronouncations of the Russian names of places and people and the narrator was very easy to listen to. The kindle version has plenty of photos and a family tree which is such a bonus. I think readers who enjoy Russian history will find Svetlana's story facinating reading. I just loved this book and although it took me close to two weeks to finish it, this is because I savoured every sentence and spent so much time googling people and places. I didn't want the book to end and the hardback copy is on my Christmas Wishlist as this is a book I want in my Library.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook!! I've been taking some long trail hikes recently--hiking 2 and 3 hours every other day --Listening to this story became tedious. I certainly didn't get any voyeurism satisfaction ....which at times...I had the thought, the setting creates. We learn the history about Stalin's daughter, Svetlana.... The Kremlin Years, The Soviet Reality, Fight to America, Learning to live in the West. We learn basic facts about her mother, her brother, her relationship with her father, ( Russian dictator, Audiobook!! I've been taking some long trail hikes recently--hiking 2 and 3 hours every other day --Listening to this story became tedious. I certainly didn't get any voyeurism satisfaction ....which at times...I had the thought, the setting creates. We learn the history about Stalin's daughter, Svetlana.... The Kremlin Years, The Soviet Reality, Fight to America, Learning to live in the West. We learn basic facts about her mother, her brother, her relationship with her father, ( Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin), as a child.. and as a teenager. We learn about her studies in American History, her close friend who was Jewish.. and her first love. We learn of Svetlana's first marriage-- the birth of their son. We learn about her second marriage -- the birth of their daughter. We learn about the man from India she loved and married...and his death. We continue to learn Svetlana was a cooperative defector.....a kind, friendly, quiet woman. When she came to the U.S. She left behind her children --- married again in the United States ...birth of 'their' daughter! Whew! By now... MY BODY... was exhausted --- just thinking of all the babies she had!. I was getting exhausted by 'details' and 'names' dropped. Another divorce....another move into another house. Another lover yet to come. ( or maybe I was in need of a break from hiking) ... At times this story was as dry as the dirt I was walking on. For all the 'editor-police-readers'.....you just might add this novel to your pile of books to send to "The Editor's Jail". I would have enjoyed this book just as much - honestly- even if 200 pages were missing. Weeks of listening to this audiobook made my brain hurt after awhile! Yet, author Rosemary Sullivan, makes sure we remember THE MOST NOTED DEFECTOR --in the United States -- in the 20th century! 3.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    ETA: So I woke up at 4 AM irritated b/c I had left stuff out of my review. I should have given examples of the humor. One chapter is entitled something like, 'Don't Try To Commit Suicide in a Tight Skirt". What else? Svetlana wanted to be cremated after her death. She told her daughter, Olga, to spread her ashes over a river in Wisconsin. Then she got thinking ....her daughter would be accused of polluting the river because they were the ashes of Stalin's daughter! Her daughter spread then over ETA: So I woke up at 4 AM irritated b/c I had left stuff out of my review. I should have given examples of the humor. One chapter is entitled something like, 'Don't Try To Commit Suicide in a Tight Skirt". What else? Svetlana wanted to be cremated after her death. She told her daughter, Olga, to spread her ashes over a river in Wisconsin. Then she got thinking ....her daughter would be accused of polluting the river because they were the ashes of Stalin's daughter! Her daughter spread then over the Pacific. ********************************** This book is fantastic! It is well written, based on solid research, engaging and will leave you rooting for Svetlana. Svetlana who? Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (1926-2011). Stalin's only daughter, or Lana Peters, the name by which she preferred to be called. The book covers her entire life. What do I mean by well written? We are presented with both detailed and sometimes contradictory information. When divergent explanations are possible the reader is given adequate information to draw their own conclusion. Many, many quotes are provided, both about Svetlana and from the mouth of Svetlana. Great lines, wise lines, funny lines. There certainly is humor in this book that could have been so dark. Historical events related to her life are those that are presented; there is a perfect balance of personal and historical facts. The information presented is thorough and detailed, but never dry. Svetlana's life story is utterly fascinating. What she lived through is exciting and will have you on the edge of your seat - not once, not twice, but many times. The book plunges you immediately into her defection in 1967 from the U.S.S.R. Then it backtracks. You must have heard about Frank Lloyd Wright's wives and about Taliesin. Well, Svetlana's fourth husband was Wes Peters, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright's last wife (Olgivanna) and Frank Lloyd Wright's stepson! Anybody who has read The Women by T.C. Boyle will certainly want to read this too. If you have read that you will know of the shenanigans of these architects, of these communal artisans. Their behavior, well, let’s leave it at this, Svetlana fit right in. Sort of, in some ways, until…... You know what kind of a father she had. Did you know that her mother died when she was six and a half? That her father killed, imprisoned and utterly destroyed many of their own family? That when she defected to the U.S. she left behind two children? There is more you don’t know. Are you interested in love stories? Svetlana spent her life searching for love. The reason why I loved this book, beyond the fact that it is well executed, is that Svetlana was such an amazing person.....but human. The author shows you who she was in her soul, intimately and honestly, by her deeds, by her humor, by her anger, by her willingness to say she was sorry, by her humility. She was head-strong. She was volatile and emotional. She had a temper! She was very intelligent. I really admire her. What spunk. What courage. You have to read this book to meet this woman. Here is one of those few exceptional non-fiction books that is simple to read because it is so engaging, because you have to know what happens. Why? Because you come to care. This book shows you who Svetlana was in her heart, in her head. I admire her because she never gave up, even though she had such a hard life. You root for her, regardless of her foolish mistakes. Everybody thinks she was wealthy – just forget that! So many lies have been woven around her. You have to read this book to get to the truth. One word about the audiobook narration by Karen Cass. I wanted to know and remember every detail. I wanted to forget nothing, and for that I need a very slow narration. While Cass does a very good job, I personally wish it had been a bit slower. I don't think others are quite as neurotic about speed as I am. Now I want to read all the books written by Svetlana Alliluyeva. Unfortunately only some of the titles are listed here at GR.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    “I want to explain to you, he broke my life.” Joseph Stalin purged and punished in greater numbers than Hitler’s Reich and he disappeared members of his own family. Author Rosemary Sullivan shows the weight his terror, and the desires of those in the power structure he created, on his only daughter. Sullivan recounts Svetlana’s tragic childhood and lonely life as the “princess of the Kremlin”. She was shaped by her mother’s death, her father’s on and off attention and her growing awareness of her “I want to explain to you, he broke my life.” Joseph Stalin purged and punished in greater numbers than Hitler’s Reich and he disappeared members of his own family. Author Rosemary Sullivan shows the weight his terror, and the desires of those in the power structure he created, on his only daughter. Sullivan recounts Svetlana’s tragic childhood and lonely life as the “princess of the Kremlin”. She was shaped by her mother’s death, her father’s on and off attention and her growing awareness of her father’s role in the disappearances of her relatives. Despite her isolation, she made some friends, some of whom paid a price for knowing her. Smith takes you through her education, her romances, her relationship with her father, her marriages and the birth and early life of her two children. You learn of her love for Brajesh Singh, and how this led to her defection. She came to the US with little understanding of the political, social or economic systems and was both helped and taken advantage of. You marvel at her book deal and earning potential and how she lost most of it in an unusual marriage. She had signed away her copyrights but did not recoup those loses despite offers to lecture, write more or provide information. You see her yearning for love, intellectual companionship, stability or just normalcy and how she undermined her search for each with abrupt decisions. She is described as spirited, pleasant, and warm but loses friendships in fits of anger. She faced down her father, diplomats and party officials for her freedom but didn't know how to use it, and even attempted to return to Russia where she knew she'd be restrained. She wanted stability, but divorced 4 husbands and moved uncounted times, leaving houses and furniture on two continents. She died in poverty in 2011 at age 85. The List of Characters was helpful such that I only needed the Index a few times and each time it worked. There are B&W photos placed with their content throughout. The Acknowledgements and Notes show the breadth of this as a research project. Sullivan has the skill to present this research as a highly readable, and at times a page turning narrative. A 2011 documentary, “Hitler’s Children” shows through the lives of the descendants of Himmler and Goering and others the difficulty of living a family legacy of mass murderers. Svetlana Alliluyeva’s burden was many times more difficult.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    When one thinks about the demonic characters that dominated the twentieth century most people do not focus on the impact their lives have had on their offspring. But with Rosemary Sullivan’s remarkable new biography, STALIN’S DAUGHTER: THE EXTRAORDINARY AND TUMULTUOUS LIFE OF SVETLANA ALLILUYEVA we have just such a book. Sullivan’s narrative and analysis is thoughtful and reasoned and by the conclusion of her 623 page effort the reader will feel they have entered a surreal world that explored no When one thinks about the demonic characters that dominated the twentieth century most people do not focus on the impact their lives have had on their offspring. But with Rosemary Sullivan’s remarkable new biography, STALIN’S DAUGHTER: THE EXTRAORDINARY AND TUMULTUOUS LIFE OF SVETLANA ALLILUYEVA we have just such a book. Sullivan’s narrative and analysis is thoughtful and reasoned and by the conclusion of her 623 page effort the reader will feel they have entered a surreal world that explored not only Stalin’s child, but the author of the cult of personality that dominated Russian history from 1924 until his death in 1953. What emerges is a portrait of a child who is raised in the ultimate dysfunctional family. Svetlana had to endure the suicide of her mother, Nadya in 1932, the erratic emotional roll a coaster that was her father, and the demands of being the daughter of a man who was responsible either directly or indirectly for the deaths of between 20 and 40 million people. This leads to a flawed adulthood that saw four marriages, countless love affairs, and a wandering nature that saw her abandon her own children when she first defected to the United States in 1967, later returning to the Soviet Union in 1984 and again in 1986, then traveling to England and finally dying in the United States in 2011. Sullivan has done an extraordinary job in piecing together Svetlana’s life. Relying on her subject’s own published writings and private papers, interviews, and other documents she has prepared an incredible story that would be difficult to imagine. Sullivan begins by describing Svetlana’s defection to the United States which she correctly begins a pattern of escapism and the need to fill an emotional hole in her psyche that is repeated throughout her life. From this point on Sullivan successfully transitions to a description of a childhood growing up in the Kremlin and her interactions with her mother, Nadya, a deeply flawed woman who finally succumbed to the pressures of dealing with an abusive husband by committing suicide when her daughter was only six. What amazed me was Sullivan’s description of the environment which Svetlana was raised. Stalin’s household mirrored that of Tsarist royalty that the Bolshevik revolution was designed to replace. Nannies, special schools, summer homes, pseudo palaces, tennis courts were all part of the picture. Svetlana spent little time with her mother, and Sullivan remarks that her father was more affectionate toward her than her mother. The result was that Svetlana became an emotionally needy child, a state of mind that would dominate her actions for the remainder of her life. Sullivan is able to weave the major events of the Stalinist regime into her biography. Purges, collectivization, show trials of the 1930s, the Nazi invasion of June, 1941, the devastation caused by World War II, and the Cold War are all portrayed in detail through the lens of Stalin’s daughter and the effect they had on her life. The disappearance of family members and others who made her childhood secure made it very difficult for Svetlana as she had no idea why things were happening. Her mother’s suicide was especially difficult, and once she learned the truth as to what occurred during the war her view of her father radically changed and she began to perceive him as the monster that he was. Stalin’s impact on his daughter’s emotional life was profound as he prevented her from pursuing certain relationships, forced her to attend Kremlin events with his cronies late at night in the Kremlin and perform for them, forced her to attend certain schools, but most importantly played a game of withholding his parental love on and off throughout her childhood. It is not surprising that Svetlana evolved into a very confused and emotionally flawed individual prone to impulsive actions to fill the vacuum in her life. “Her first love, the prominent screenwriter Aleksei Kapler, was sent to labor camps when Stalin learned of their courtship. Her half-brother Yakov, with whom she was close, perished in a German P.O.W. camp after Stalin refused a prisoner exchange to save him. Her remaining brother, Vasili, died of alcoholism two days short of his 41st birthday.” (New York Times, “Stalin’s Daughter,” by Rosemary Sullivan, by Olga Grushin, June 12, 2015) Svetlana married Grigori Morozov, a Jewish college student when she was eighteen. Stalin hated Jews as he always believed that there was a Jewish conspiracy against him throughout his life. There was no marriage celebration and Stalin did not meet him before the wedding. By eighteen, Svetlana was pregnant. As her marriage deteriorated and she went through three painful abortions she sought the emotional support of her father that was not there. In this instance and others, Sullivan points out that Svetlana “grew disparate as she did not know how to be alone. Alone she felt totally exposed. She thought she would be safe if only she could entwine her life in another, but then, once she had achieved this, she would feel suffocated, a pattern that would take decades to break, if she ever succeeded.” (136) When her father finally died in 1953, Svetlana’s unstable psychological profile produces feelings of guilt that she was not a good daughter and that she could have done more to help their relationship. Grief can distort one’s feelings and true to her nature her own willful blindness distorted her view of reality. Following her father’s death Svetlana disavowed politics and tried to keep herself as anonymous as possible. However, this goal was constrained by the fact that she was deemed as “state property” by the new government. People’s reactions to her would always be filtered by their view of her father. A greater impact on her life was Nikita Khrushchev’s “DeStalinization Speech” on February 25, 1956 before the Twentieth Party Congress in which the Soviet leader laid bare Stalin’s crimes. Svetlana was terrified that she would be identified with her father and hated, so as usual she withdrew into isolation. By 1957 she would change her name from Stalina to her mother’s maiden name, Alliluyeva. She would become a gossip target because of her failed marriages and sexual affairs, reflecting the contempt that developed in Soviet society for her father. Svetlana suffered from a compulsive need to turn each love affair into marriage. No matter how many bad relationships she suffered she always held on to the belief that marriage would provide a bulwark against inevitable loss. Sullivan is correct in arguing that “at core she was an emotional orphan with a tragic frailty that always threatened to sink her.” (222) Sullivan explores the most important aspects of Svetlana’s journey as she prepares her first memoir TWENTY LETTERS TO A FRIEND. The book explores her “cruel bereavements,” disappointments and losses as she describes her childhood and personal relationships. The book revealed no state secrets and had no political agenda apart from condemning the Stalinist regime. The book would become her financial ticket for the future, especially after she falls in love with Brajesh Singh, an Indian raj who was chronically ill. They would marry, and Svetlana’s desire to return his ashes to India after he died leads her to defect to the United States. The author’s discussion of Svetlana’s defection to the United States after visiting India are fascinating. The diplomatic machinations among the Indian, Italian, Swiss and US governments reflect the political dynamite she represented visa vie the Soviet Union. The work of George Kennan, the esteemed American diplomat and historian, who oversaw Svetlana’s life for decades is accurately described as he locates a publisher for her work and deals with the fallout from her defection and the complexity of her plight. Sullivan’s analysis of Svetlana’s psyche are credible as she describes all aspects of her journey from abandonment of her family in Russia, to her settlement in the United States , and the Soviet campaign to defame her as a capitalist who was playing on her father’s name to become rich. Svetlana’s journey throughout this period was rife with emotional and financial failure as she had no clue how to manage her life. This inability to control herself would lead to numerous personal disasters that make the reader feel a great deal of pity for Svetlana. Sullivan’s descriptions of Svetlana’s many love affairs from the prism of her constant anxieties and fear of loneliness is eye opening. She examines each love affair whether with the Princeton historian Louis Fischer or her four husbands and their impact on her personality and self-worth. The most devastating relationship was her marriage to William Wendell Peters, an architect who was tied to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation at Taliesan located in Arizona, a communal situation controlled by a cult leader, Olgivanna Wright, the famed architect’s wife. Svetlana’s marriage would result in financial ruin, a daughter, Olga, and divorce. Svetlana’s life after Peters was dominated by how to raise her daughter which contributed to her wanderings that would eventually lead her to England, a return to the Soviet Union, back to England, and eventually the US. Throughout the book the image of her father seems to dominate. The author’s discussion of Svetlana’s second book ONLY ONE YEAR encapsulates her situation as she continued her struggle to maintain her reputation against Soviet attacks. The book is more than a recapitulation of her voyage from India to the US. She revisits her past as she excoriates her father’s actions and makes the argument that her father was solely responsible for events. She lays part of the blame with those who cooperated without whom the events of the 1930s could not have occurred. She commits the blasphemy in Soviet Communist Party eyes of linking her father’s behavior with Lenin, who she argues created the atmosphere for Stalin’s crimes to be carried out. It is interesting to witness how the Soviet government’s attitude toward Svetlana evolves throughout the 1980s and 1990s as Mikhail Gorbachev tried to implement glasnost and perestroika. Even as leaders of the Soviet Union devote less and less attention to Svetlana’s situation over time, she remains paranoid about what they might do to her to the extent that when she is approaching the end of her life she wants to make sure that the Russian government cannot take advantage of her demise. Sullivan describes a woman who is caught in a cycle of emotional disasters throughout her life as she tries to establish meaningful relationships. Svetlana rebounds from one crisis to another as her confidence suffers from extreme highs and lows. Her impulsive nature and naiveté born of a need to fill the emotional abyss that dates back to her mother’s suicide appears to the underlying psychic motivation of her erratic behavior. For Svetlana setting the historical record straight concerning her life’s story came to dominate her life once her marriage to Peters collapsed. In the end Svetlana’s perceptive nature in dealing with Russian history is offered as she correctly warns the west of who Vladimir Putin really is and what he hoped to achieve. From her viewpoint, a restoration of Russian power by appealing to Russian nationalism, a prediction made in the late nineties and early two thousands that has come to pass. In the end Svetlana Alliliuyeva’s life can be seen as a tragedy born of events and personalities that she could neither control nor understand. Sullivan has written an exceptional biography dealing with another victim of Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror, his own daughter.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    What would it mean to be born Stalin’s daughter, to carry the weight of that name for a lifetime and never be free of it? Svetlana (Alliluyeva) Stalina (later known as Lana Peters) led a larger life than most, and in the exhaustively researched Stalin's Daughter, author Rosemary Sullivan presents a woman that most people would have found mercurial and unlikeable in person, but on the page, a reader can't help but step back and wonder, What must it have been like to be born Stalin's daughter? What would it mean to be born Stalin’s daughter, to carry the weight of that name for a lifetime and never be free of it? Svetlana (Alliluyeva) Stalina (later known as Lana Peters) led a larger life than most, and in the exhaustively researched Stalin's Daughter, author Rosemary Sullivan presents a woman that most people would have found mercurial and unlikeable in person, but on the page, a reader can't help but step back and wonder, What must it have been like to be born Stalin's daughter? How do you survive finding out that your beloved father was a monster when you're not a monstrous person yourself? On the one hand, most Russians thought of Svetlana as the Princess of the Kremlin, but the childhood she describes (in letters, remembered conversations, and her own memoirs written years later) is one of a lonely little girl with a distant mother, an absent father, no real friends, and a home in gloomy bureaucratic quarters. After Svetlana's mother committed suicide when the little girl was only six (the fact of the suicide only accidentally revealed to Svetlana many years later), she became even more isolated and lonesome. Svetlana's story jumps ahead years at a time and the book isn't even half done when Stalin dies – and that's important to note because this isn't really Stalin's story, but his daughter's. Through the years, Svetlana was a romantic, passionately falling in love with inappropriate mates, and eventually endured four failed marriages. When she fell for an Indian diplomat whom the Russian government refused to give her permission to marry, Svetlana lived as his wife for years, nursed him through his final illness, and was shocked when the Politburo gave in to her demands to carry his ashes to India for last rites. While in India – and despite leaving two adolescent children behind in Moscow – Svetlana presented herself to the American Embassy with the intent to defect. Much cloak and dagger ensued, and despite not wanting to provoke a major incident at the height of the Cold War, the US eventually allowed Svetlana to emigrate in order to publish her first memoir about growing up in the Soviet Union. Because the book made a lot of money (and because Svetlana was clueless about taking care of money and still a hopeless romantic), the widow of Frank Lloyd Wright was able to lure her to Taliesin West (Wright's desert-based utopian society) and encourage Svetlana to marry her own widowered son-in-law. The marriage didn't last, but the couple had a daughter (despite Svetlana now being 44), and taking care of her became Svetlana's raison d'être. Money was an issue for Svetlana for the rest of her life, and in order to give little Olga the best possible education, they moved constantly – from state to state, to England, a defection back to the USSR (!), a return to the West – and along the way, Svetlana alienated those who would try to help her, would erupt with anger every time someone mentioned her father, would give her heart to men who didn't know how to deal with her. At the very end, Svetlana lived as an anonymous hunchbacked old woman in a small town nursing home, surviving on the meager pension she had been able to accrue, looking forward to visits from the one child she still had contact with. This (and so much more) is the story of Svetlana's life, and the research is evident on every page, with quotes and footnotes in nearly every paragraph. For the most part, the story is told in Svetlana's own words (in addition to having written four memoirs, the woman was a constant letter-writer), and where former friends are quoted, it's often from their own memoirs (and I have to think that most of them wouldn't have published books if they hadn't known Stalin's daughter, so I don't know how impartial their opinions of her actually were). And yet, despite the fascinating potential of this story and the obvious scholarship involved, I found this book to be a little dull. I also felt the presence of the author and her own opinions throughout these pages. Often, there would be declarative statements like: Buried in the minds of us who are lucky is a childhood landscape, a place of magic and imagination, a safe place. It is foundational, and we will return to it in memory and dreams throughout our lives. In a book where so much is supported by quotes and footnotes, when a statement like that is made unsupported, I can't help but think, “If that's an important psychological concept that you're trying to tie in, you ought to note a source. If, on the other hand, it's just common knowledge (which I suppose is the case), then what's the point of saying it?” And while that might sound like a petty complaint, it happened many times on these pages and it started to irk me. I also felt the unwelcome presence of the author in passages like: As he lay dying on the evening of March 1, it is unlikely that Stalin was sending a silent cry for help to Svetlana, however much she may have longed for him to do so. It is heartwrenching that she imagined he was. Or: One thinks of Svetlana at that door, banging for an hour until she broke the glass and her hands bled, and imagines that she was beating in fury against all the ghosts of her past who had failed her: her mother, her father, her brother. Her lovers. And now, this new life. In a work of nonfiction – no matter how intimately the author got to know her subject – I reject the notion that she can know what's on other's minds. And yet...Rosemary Sullivan won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction for Stalin's Daughter, I see that most reviewers liked it very much, and for myself, I am glad to have learned about the unhappy biography of someone I hadn't ever heard about. This was not a waste of time, but not nearly as good as I had hoped.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I enjoyed this book and learned so much about the early years of the USSR and Stalin’s family. I am always appalled every time I read the numbers of death in Russia from the famine in the 1930 to the number of dead in WWII. Svetlana grew up in the Kremlin surrounded by adoring relatives, governesses and tutors. Her mother committed suicide when she was 6 years old. Svetlana was born in 1926; she lived through the purges, war and the disappearances of most of her relatives into gulags. Her first l I enjoyed this book and learned so much about the early years of the USSR and Stalin’s family. I am always appalled every time I read the numbers of death in Russia from the famine in the 1930 to the number of dead in WWII. Svetlana grew up in the Kremlin surrounded by adoring relatives, governesses and tutors. Her mother committed suicide when she was 6 years old. Svetlana was born in 1926; she lived through the purges, war and the disappearances of most of her relatives into gulags. Her first love, Aleksey Kaples was sent to a labor camp when Stalin learned of their courtship. Her half brother Yaakov, with whom she was close, died in a German P. O. W. camp after Stalin refused a prisoner of war exchange. I was most interested in Svetlana’s meeting with Winston Churchill when he came to meet with Stalin during WWII. Churchill noted her red hair and told her he had also been a redhead when he was young. In 1967, fourteen years after Stalin’s death, Svetlana defected to the United States. Her life reads like a clock and dagger suspense spy thriller. She had three children from three of her four failed marriages, published several books, made money and lost it. She moved constantly unable to stay in one place very long. She died at age 85, nearly destitute in Wisconsin under the name of Lana Peters. I found her comments about Putin most interesting and that she thought the United States was most naïve about Russia. Rosemary Sullivan is an eminent biographer. I enjoyed her biography of Margaret Atwood. The book is well researched, and Sullivan maintains a neutral view of the troubled life of Svetlana. Sullivan allows the reader the freedom of their own interpretation. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is fairly long at 20 hours; Karen Cass does a good job narrating the story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dolores

    This compelling biography is the intimate and tragic story of a woman fated to live in the shadow of her father, the notorious Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. When I was a school girl during World War II, I thought "Uncle Joe" was the USA's strong friend, and I was glad that he was on our side. I had no knowledge of his cruelty or merciless purges. As the years went by, I was shocked and horrified to learn the extent of his evil and brutality. I was a little intimidated by the thickness of this boo This compelling biography is the intimate and tragic story of a woman fated to live in the shadow of her father, the notorious Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. When I was a school girl during World War II, I thought "Uncle Joe" was the USA's strong friend, and I was glad that he was on our side. I had no knowledge of his cruelty or merciless purges. As the years went by, I was shocked and horrified to learn the extent of his evil and brutality. I was a little intimidated by the thickness of this book, but totally absorbed as soon as I started reading. I recommend it highly and am indebted to Goodreads for sending it to me free of charge.

  9. 4 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    "Wherever I go, whether to Australia or some island, I will always be a political prisoner of my father's name.", a true statement from Svetlana Stalin, who lived in her father's shadow her entire life. The book begins as her life begins with statements such as,"whenever she asked him for something, he would say,'why are you only asking? Give an order and I'll see to it right away.' She was a beloved child, but love was not openly expressed, especially by a father who was so controlling and angr "Wherever I go, whether to Australia or some island, I will always be a political prisoner of my father's name.", a true statement from Svetlana Stalin, who lived in her father's shadow her entire life. The book begins as her life begins with statements such as,"whenever she asked him for something, he would say,'why are you only asking? Give an order and I'll see to it right away.' She was a beloved child, but love was not openly expressed, especially by a father who was so controlling and angry, driving her mother to commit suicide. By 1942, she was in the tenth grade and suddenly learning about her father'a atrocities. At the age of 16, Stalin had her first love arrested. Soon after Stalin died, which led to a period called "The Thaw", and she was caught in a whirlwind of gulag releases, anti Stalin speeches, and cultural and political reforms. Regardless she was still addressed as Stalin 's daughter, Russian royalty, a princess of the common people, but people were either afraid of her or ignored her, dropping her socially like an old hat. Her life was a constant quest for love and peace, and she was compelled to write books to exorcise the demons of her past, which never seemed to happen. She was viewed by the United States as the most famous defector of the USSR, having "iron in her soul", iron that expressed itself in her passionate outbursts. She was stubborn, explosive, insecure, but brutally honest. I found the Russian portions of the book more engaging that the US portions. When she lived in the United States, her life seemed like a soap opera, like she was a fish out of water. She just didn't fit in. And viewing the family photos of Stalin with his children was quite surreal. Stalin kissing a child's face? That happened? I was left not quite knowing how to feel about svetlana. I still don't after writing this review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    This was a really enjoyable biography of Stalin's daughter who at times seemed dramatic, manipulative, and narcissistic and at other times quite humble, genuine, and selfless. Despite compulsively psychoanalyze Svetlana throughout the book, I could never quite figure her out and was always insatiably curious about what it must have been like to have Stalin for a father. The writing was fantastic and brought to life all the family and political dynamics in Svetlana's life. The author detailed som This was a really enjoyable biography of Stalin's daughter who at times seemed dramatic, manipulative, and narcissistic and at other times quite humble, genuine, and selfless. Despite compulsively psychoanalyze Svetlana throughout the book, I could never quite figure her out and was always insatiably curious about what it must have been like to have Stalin for a father. The writing was fantastic and brought to life all the family and political dynamics in Svetlana's life. The author detailed some of the more interesting aspects of Svetlana's mother's life, still such a mystery to me, as well as her and Stalin's relationship with her mother's side of the family. We get a glimpse, but never fully get to know, what Svetlana was and was not aware of when her father condemned masses of people to the gulags. Her relationship with her children was every bit as interesting as her relationship with her father. Her defection was nothing less than sensational and even scandalous. I couldn't help but think about this book for weeks after I was finished with it. I scoured the internet for news of her 3 children and tried to learn anything I could that was not covered in the biography. (Her youngest child's life was the most intersting by far). Anytime a book causes me to research further or constantly think about the people who were the subject of the book, I am happy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Stringer

    3.5-4 stars. Having met Svetlana while in college, it was fun to read her whole story. When I met her, we were under strict orders not to ask her about her father. We talked Russian literature and poetry. I discovered Anna Akhmatova was one of her favorite poets, so we had that in common. I remember reciting for her my favorite (and the only one I had completely memorized) and now 20+ years I am totally embarrassed that I chose THAT poem - all about the longing to flee, but knowing you never wil 3.5-4 stars. Having met Svetlana while in college, it was fun to read her whole story. When I met her, we were under strict orders not to ask her about her father. We talked Russian literature and poetry. I discovered Anna Akhmatova was one of her favorite poets, so we had that in common. I remember reciting for her my favorite (and the only one I had completely memorized) and now 20+ years I am totally embarrassed that I chose THAT poem - all about the longing to flee, but knowing you never will, that would be the easy way out. So not appropriate... Anyway, I definitely understood from this book that she was a troubled lady, but I never really felt like I understood what motivated her. I don't think the author does, either. For someone who felt so abandoned by her own mother when she committed suicide, I still don't understand how she abandoned her own children without any kind of warning. Hard to read without judgement.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hermien

    The book is a bit overlong and I didn't warm to Svetlana, but reading about the people she met along the way was interesting. The book is a bit overlong and I didn't warm to Svetlana, but reading about the people she met along the way was interesting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Somia

    This book marks my first time doing a buddy read and it was a good one to start with – thank you to the fab Leslie for introducing me to this book and reading it with me. The start of this book had me intrigued and keen to read more and I’m happy to say my interest stayed throughout. Overall the writing is smooth and the way things were approached engaging. This is a compelling biography that gives us more than just an insight onto the turbulent and somewhat nomadic life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (l This book marks my first time doing a buddy read and it was a good one to start with – thank you to the fab Leslie for introducing me to this book and reading it with me. The start of this book had me intrigued and keen to read more and I’m happy to say my interest stayed throughout. Overall the writing is smooth and the way things were approached engaging. This is a compelling biography that gives us more than just an insight onto the turbulent and somewhat nomadic life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (later known as Lana Peters), better known as Stalin’s daughter, a label she could never escape. A smidgen more editing would have made certain sections less dry, but for me this was no big issue. There is some small repetition in the book, for example the author more than once highlights the fact that for women in the Kremlin and after the revolution abortion was used as a form of birth control. I don’t know how things stood prior to the revolution, but I’m intrigued by how issues around women’s bodies and abortions were treated, since in this biography the author suggestions abortions were regularly used to control how many children were had. Also, this may annoy some – events from Svetlana’s infancy and some of interactions between her parents where she was not there, are mentioned in this book as if witnessed through her eyes, she must have been told about these events and interactions and so it’s important to be aware of how memories of events would have been shaded by those telling her them as well as Svetlana’s own complex feelings when it came to her parents and childhood. A question that will never gain a definitive answer, unless I locate a time machine, but is still zooming through my mind is that when more and more family members started disappearing and arrested, why didn’t those family members still surrounding Stalin try and escape, I know the attempt would have been exceptionally dangerous, but how could they not see the writing on the wall? Did anyone try and this biography didn’t mention it? Or did those who tried, disappear and their escape attempts never revealed?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lena

    In 1967, Svetlana Alliluyeva walked into the US Embassy in New Delhi and requested asylum. At that point in the Cold war, any Russian defection was a delicate matter, but the defection of of a woman claiming to be Stalin's daughter was a bombshell. So begins Rosemary Sullivan's long but compulsively readable biography of Stalin's only daughter. After the opening chapter, Sullivan jumps back in time to trace the origin story of a girl born into some of the most extraordinary circumstances imaginab In 1967, Svetlana Alliluyeva walked into the US Embassy in New Delhi and requested asylum. At that point in the Cold war, any Russian defection was a delicate matter, but the defection of of a woman claiming to be Stalin's daughter was a bombshell. So begins Rosemary Sullivan's long but compulsively readable biography of Stalin's only daughter. After the opening chapter, Sullivan jumps back in time to trace the origin story of a girl born into some of the most extraordinary circumstances imaginable. Being Stalin's offspring was no guarantee of special treatment at the hands of one of the most vicious dictators of the 20th century, but while Stalin refused to negotiate for his eldest son's release from a German POW camp, he had a soft spot for Svetlana that afforded her the ability to have a unique relationship with a man who was more concerned about power and building his reputation as an icon than he was his immediate family. Though Sveltlana herself was not in danger from her murderous father, she still suffered mightily as her beloved aunts and uncles began to disappear into the gulags alongside millions of other Soviet citizens. Sullivan does a good job of highlighting how the double-thought that all Soviet citizens had to engage in to survive impacted Sveltana as well, causing her to believe that those disappearances were orchestrated by other Politbureau members manipulating her father rather than face the truth she would finally come to understand after fleeing to the west. Roughly the first half of the book takes place in Russia. It paints a detailed picture of both the challenges and benefits of life among the Soviet elite, as well as the story of one very sad and lonely woman isolated by her unique status. Upon her arrival in the West, it shifts into the story of a woman attempting to establish a new life for herself under the weight of a name she could never really escape. Sveltana's journey takes numerous twists and turns following her defection, one of which finds her becoming prey of Frank Lloyd Wright's Machiavellian widow, Olgivanna. Olgivanna was a disciple of Gurdjieff who turned her husband's experiment in communal living into a spiritual cult under her own direction. Believing the rumors that Svetlana was heir to a mythical Stalin fortune stashed in the West, Olgivanna orchestrated the courtship and marriage of Svetlana to her most trusted lieutenant. Though Svetlana had no use for communal living or spiritual teachers, she was exploited though her deep need for love, one that would ultimately result in the loss of what funds she did have as she attempted to extract her husband from the clutches of Olgivanna. Svetlana left behind two children in the Soviet Union when she impulsively defected, a factor which likely contributed to her inability to settle peacefully anywhere for very long. She is a quintessentially Russian tragic figure, her eloquent composure masking a volcanic temper and an unquenchable longing that complicated her relationships with those who took her under their wings. She may not have survived her struggles had an unexpected pregnancy at the age of 44 not given her her own beloved daughter, a bright spirit who - temporarily, at least - provided her with some measure of grounding as she battled her cultural challenges and inner demons. Svetlana's insight into Russia remained laser sharp as she aged, and it is shocking to read her assessment of Putin and the Chechen bombing he rode to power in the early days of his election. Svelana had no doubt that bombing was staged with the express purpose of bringing Putin and his KGB cronies back into power and I can only imagine how she would feel about their tentacles reaching into the West the way they currently are. Svetlana died in Wisconsin in 2011 a pauper, but she left behind an incredibly rich life story that is well worth reading.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Probably one of the most problematic aspects for biographers is deciding whether individuals who are interesting in theory are interesting in life--at least to the point where a whole book can be written about them. Alliluyeva was born into a world that history lovers want to know more about, but after a certain point, at least according to this biography, Alliluyeva's life became a repetitive cycle of emotional and geographical upheaval that is sad but not compelling. The first half of the book Probably one of the most problematic aspects for biographers is deciding whether individuals who are interesting in theory are interesting in life--at least to the point where a whole book can be written about them. Alliluyeva was born into a world that history lovers want to know more about, but after a certain point, at least according to this biography, Alliluyeva's life became a repetitive cycle of emotional and geographical upheaval that is sad but not compelling. The first half of the book is the strongest: it begins with Alliluyeva's courageous defection from the USSR when the stars aligned sufficiently to give her an opportunity to do so. Her early life and struggle to find her place in an oppressive household and oppressive society is remarkable. However, after we are caught up to the point of her defection, her life spirals into a confusing series of errors, which makes frustrating reading. She takes up and discards people. She moves from place to place. She makes money and then she throws it away. Throughout, all is punctuated with quotes from her increasingly hostile and rambling letters which only support the idea that she is not a "stable" woman rather than making the reader feel empathetic towards her situation. These, too, are repetitive, and it begins to be questionable why they are included at all. We can surmise that Alliluyeva was a deeply troubled woman, but Sullivan doesn't draw much connection, through evidence, between her terrifying past and terrifying present beyond the (again, repetitive) facts: that she was a mass-murderer's daughter and that her mother killed herself. Alliluyeva either doesn't want to talk about her past or seeks to be the victim of those currently in her life, so we don't hear her say herself that she realizes her confused and paranoid actions stem from a past and that she wants to find some measure of healing. Of course, she wants to be happy, but she doesn't want to take responsibility for becoming so. Actually, there just doesn't seem to be much psychological growth in Alliluyeva's life, and though we desperately want her to overcome, even with small successes, we continually marvel at her sorry choices. Probably the most disturbing aspect of this inability to grow or overcome is Alliluyeva's return to the USSR--with her daughter, no less. The narcissistic idea that her children would welcome her with open arms after abandoning them there (and making a bunch of money in the free world) is as painful as the idea that young Olga could be trapped the same way as the older children. It is unclear what Sullivan wanted to accomplish with this biography, in the end. Biographies are meant to tell a person's life, true, but surely a clearer angle could have been taken to make the work less bloated. Furthermore, the author's moralizing is unpleasant (as was the adding [sic] after every instance of "Svetlanka"--a totally legitimate diminutive of "Svetlana"--how could this been overlooked by the writer and editors?) The author implies that Alliluyeva's abortions are "shocking"--okay, shocking for who? Shocking for people who don't know anything about Soviet life or who haven't read about women's lives and experiences in general? She repeatedly reminds her apparently Victorian reader that women of the Soviet Union left their children to caretakers during the day while the women went off to work. Finally, the implication that women are old maids at 35 ("if one is still alone, one believes that one will stay alone") is embarrassing. While the research of this book is thorough, the book sometimes feels like it is written for an anachronistic and uninformed audience.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mag

    As much as she wanted to disassociate herself from her father, Svetlana Alliluyeva might have resembled him in character. Fiercely independent, extremely intelligent and very well educated, she was restless, impulsive and slightly paranoid. Just like Stalin, she didn't attach herself to any possessions and broke up readily with people. At the same time, probably unlike him, she was quite naïve. She didn’t understand or care about money, and was duped out of all of it. Formally married three time As much as she wanted to disassociate herself from her father, Svetlana Alliluyeva might have resembled him in character. Fiercely independent, extremely intelligent and very well educated, she was restless, impulsive and slightly paranoid. Just like Stalin, she didn't attach herself to any possessions and broke up readily with people. At the same time, probably unlike him, she was quite naïve. She didn’t understand or care about money, and was duped out of all of it. Formally married three times and in many more long lasting relationships, she always looked ahead hoping that happiness lay ahead patiently waiting around the next corner and saw a promise of domesticity where there was none. Yet, she remained a happy and satisfied woman through most of her life. Or, at least this is what her biographer, Rosemary Sullivan, has us believe. Rosemary is definitely her friend, and is positively inclined towards her subject. To her great credit, I wasn’t really interested in Stalin’s daughter, yet I read through the book with keen interest. It seems to me very well researched, balanced and low on sensationalism. I would have probably wanted to hear Svetlana’s voice more often, but only some of the letters and very few fragments of her books are quoted.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    I would give the writing and research 4 stars, but the length became so tedious. I do feel like I know Svetlana pretty well. I was very interested to read about her life, both with her father and later. And although her father died when she was a young adult, she felt his shadow her whole life. Our parents, of course, will affect the course of our lives, for good or bad, but when your father was a famous dictator, known for extremely harsh policies, executions and imprisonments . . . well, that' I would give the writing and research 4 stars, but the length became so tedious. I do feel like I know Svetlana pretty well. I was very interested to read about her life, both with her father and later. And although her father died when she was a young adult, she felt his shadow her whole life. Our parents, of course, will affect the course of our lives, for good or bad, but when your father was a famous dictator, known for extremely harsh policies, executions and imprisonments . . . well, that's quite a deep shadow to live with. I think she was as happy as any average person is, and I think that's saying something, considering the baggage she carried around. Her life would make a wonderful historical fiction book. A lot of conflict around her as well as within.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Never permitted to leave Russia until her 40's, Svetlana then defected. For the rest of her life she moved and relocated more times than I can count in an attempt to escape her father's long shadow. This extensively researched, award winning bio by Canadian Rosemary Sullivan captures Svetlana's perseverance, strengths and vulnerabilities. I found some parts too dense and detailed but overall an enlightening view of 20th century history through one woman's quite extraordinary life. Never permitted to leave Russia until her 40's, Svetlana then defected. For the rest of her life she moved and relocated more times than I can count in an attempt to escape her father's long shadow. This extensively researched, award winning bio by Canadian Rosemary Sullivan captures Svetlana's perseverance, strengths and vulnerabilities. I found some parts too dense and detailed but overall an enlightening view of 20th century history through one woman's quite extraordinary life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Audible. Long, long, long but I guess that makes it thorough. I never could have read this book. I learned A LOT about Stalin and his times and it's a wonder his daughter wasn't more damaged than she was. Satisfying ending made it worth the listen though I spread it out over a few months. Audible. Long, long, long but I guess that makes it thorough. I never could have read this book. I learned A LOT about Stalin and his times and it's a wonder his daughter wasn't more damaged than she was. Satisfying ending made it worth the listen though I spread it out over a few months.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ecardio

    This is the very bright historical biography of Svetlana Stalina, the daughter of the great Russian dictator which is written by Rosemary Sullivan. The author has compiled all the information about Svetlana's life using autobiographies written by herself, other books describing Stalin's stories with references to Svetlana and interviews with her children and friends. The book tells the story of Svetlana in a somehow novel form which includes the description of the events temporally, judging Svet This is the very bright historical biography of Svetlana Stalina, the daughter of the great Russian dictator which is written by Rosemary Sullivan. The author has compiled all the information about Svetlana's life using autobiographies written by herself, other books describing Stalin's stories with references to Svetlana and interviews with her children and friends. The book tells the story of Svetlana in a somehow novel form which includes the description of the events temporally, judging Svetlana's behaviors and manners and recounting her family and friend's views about her. Reader is always in a state of sympathy with her and I believed what has happened to Svetlana was not fair. Being in the shadow of a frightening name shaped her entire life though she herself strove to get rid of her name. It is quite understandable that everyone judged her by her father and every interview with her was made to know more about the great Stalin. This was the exact thing that she always escaped from and in the end of her life, she admitted that she was unsuccessful. The story takes you with itself and you always want to know what happened next? At the end I felt like I knew Svetlana well and her death was a catastrophe for a reader who has followed her in 1100 pages.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tofts Reviews

    It’s really unfortunate that Svetlana Alliluyeva lost so many people in her life. Being Joseph Stalin’s daughter, she was afforded many grand luxuries (allowances, pensions, nannies, bodyguards, and servants) in a time where most were living the effects of a great depression. Then, she tries to grow up, move on, and create her own life. While well-written and factual, this tome exceeds 700 pages of minute details of Svetlana’s life. Defecting to USA, authoring books, and creating a new life are e It’s really unfortunate that Svetlana Alliluyeva lost so many people in her life. Being Joseph Stalin’s daughter, she was afforded many grand luxuries (allowances, pensions, nannies, bodyguards, and servants) in a time where most were living the effects of a great depression. Then, she tries to grow up, move on, and create her own life. While well-written and factual, this tome exceeds 700 pages of minute details of Svetlana’s life. Defecting to USA, authoring books, and creating a new life are exceptional events. And Svetlana does these things with grace. However, I cannot read her greatness without that nagging feeling that she always felt overshadowed by her father and his political actions; like she cannot fully move on. ‘“It was as though my father were at the center of a black circle and anyone who ventured inside vanished or was destroyed in one way or another.” She needed to believe, as an act of survival, that he had loved her.’ And this is where I had a problem with Svetlana, the woman. In a time of war and depression, didn’t seem to fully understand the benefits and privileges her life afforded her. Yes, she had as terrible father. And, yes, she had a somewhat difficult childhood, but some of her actions left me thinking she was not in fact the martyr some would portray her, but rather, a spoiled brat wearing rose-colored glasses. She complained about seemingly meaningless things. In some instances, I felt she blamed her short-comings on her heritage and her father’s political actions; like every bad thing that happened to her was the result of who she was related to; even later in life. Rather than fully letting go and growing up, she had that security blanket of blame at the ready. It was as if she perceived everyone was ready to ‘play the Stalin card’ to bring her down and she had a ready-made excuse for the terrible lemons life gave her. The letter Svetlana writes to her daughter Olga (to be read upon her death) is very touching and memorable. I found this book very informative and intriguing. Rosemary Sullivan is a tremendous biographer and shows this through her a dramatic metamorphosis of Svetlana Alliluyeva. Ms. Sullivan always leaves her readers with a complete and objective look at her subjects. -- Tofts Reviews

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ellie Midwood

    “Stalin’s Daughter” is an incredibly well-researched and compelling biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva - Stalin’s only daughter. Written in an objective manner, it draws a portrait of a woman who was forced to spend her entire life in her father’s shadow. I personally found Svetlana’s story to be truly tragic. Despite being seen by many as a so-called “Kremlin Princess,” she was a highly intelligent, rebellious, down-to-earth, freedom-loving person whose main goal since childhood was to be treated “Stalin’s Daughter” is an incredibly well-researched and compelling biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva - Stalin’s only daughter. Written in an objective manner, it draws a portrait of a woman who was forced to spend her entire life in her father’s shadow. I personally found Svetlana’s story to be truly tragic. Despite being seen by many as a so-called “Kremlin Princess,” she was a highly intelligent, rebellious, down-to-earth, freedom-loving person whose main goal since childhood was to be treated as someone ordinary instead of being hated or revered solely due to her last name. Several marriages, defections and re-defections, unfortunately, didn’t help Svetlana find her place in a world to which she was either an object of propaganda or counter-propaganda and never just a writer and a woman in desperate need of friendship and love. Stalin destroyed many lives and, inadvertently, his own daughter’s life as well even though I do believe that he sincerely loved her - it’s evident from their correspondence, at least when she was still a young girl. This biography is remarkable because it’s written relying on multiple sources - Svetlana’s daughter, relatives, friends, colleagues, and people who helped her or were in contact with her during different stages of her life. I appreciated that the author wrote it about Svetlana as a person and not Svetlana as a political figure; I feel, this is exactly the biography Svetlana herself would have liked to be written about her. There’s no political agenda of any sort here. The author simply states the facts and lets the readers draw their own conclusions. For these reasons, I would strongly recommend “Stalin’s Daughter” to everyone interested in history and Svetlana as a person.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Carrington

    I loved this book. At times I took short breaks because it is a long and often frustrating life, but it also fascinating. It gave me empathy for my own grandmother who is now quite old and suspicious, realizing that the hardships that we are given to us in childhood and beyond can sometimes drive us in ways that can be hard to pin down, and healing can be a difficult and not always neat or pretty process. I love the combination of attributes that make Svetlana. She's not a woman you can 100 perc I loved this book. At times I took short breaks because it is a long and often frustrating life, but it also fascinating. It gave me empathy for my own grandmother who is now quite old and suspicious, realizing that the hardships that we are given to us in childhood and beyond can sometimes drive us in ways that can be hard to pin down, and healing can be a difficult and not always neat or pretty process. I love the combination of attributes that make Svetlana. She's not a woman you can 100 percent get behind, sometimes you cringe for her, but she is a heroine, and she is good. Her neediness reminds me of the children I interact with, unreasonable and yet totally understandable. I never once thought about the writer of the biography, which I think is wonderful. I was transported. The research was thorough and it felt like it was understanding and on her side, without being blind to her complications.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    As someone who lived during the Regan and Gorbachev era of The Cold Water, studied a bit of world history, had a Russian suite mate and gleaned knowledge through reading...this book made all those names and tidbits return. However it also made me realize just how little I know of Soviet history outside of the propaganda from news and movies against the system. Until I started seeing reviews for this book I was ignorant that Stalin even had children. It wasn't a question that even crossed my mind As someone who lived during the Regan and Gorbachev era of The Cold Water, studied a bit of world history, had a Russian suite mate and gleaned knowledge through reading...this book made all those names and tidbits return. However it also made me realize just how little I know of Soviet history outside of the propaganda from news and movies against the system. Until I started seeing reviews for this book I was ignorant that Stalin even had children. It wasn't a question that even crossed my mind. I find the research questions lingering in my mind to be as daunting as my TBR. I want to know so much more but also realize I will never know as I can not possible relate to life in Russia. I admire the depth to which author, Rosemary Sullivan, went to for understanding and insight into just who Svetlana/Lena was as a person emotionally and intellectually. A fascinating read and should prove interesting to discuss with my Canadian friends this evening.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eva Stachniak

    Rosemary Sullivan is an extraordinary writer and researcher. Her latest biography, Stalin's Daughter, is one of her best. The extraordinary life of Svetlana Alliluyeva--spent under the sinister shadow of her father--is a complex and moving story of a sensitive woman caught in the turmoils of 20th century history. Sullivan manages to sail smoothly through the complexities of Russian internal politics. Her writing illuminates, explains what can be explained, and leaves enough to ponder on long aft Rosemary Sullivan is an extraordinary writer and researcher. Her latest biography, Stalin's Daughter, is one of her best. The extraordinary life of Svetlana Alliluyeva--spent under the sinister shadow of her father--is a complex and moving story of a sensitive woman caught in the turmoils of 20th century history. Sullivan manages to sail smoothly through the complexities of Russian internal politics. Her writing illuminates, explains what can be explained, and leaves enough to ponder on long after the reading ends. Stalin's Daughter is an important book--and an irresistible one at the same time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kellymark44

    I found this book absolutely fascinating. I admit I wasn't aware of this history, so it was an incredible story for me to read and I read constantly to see what Stalin's daughter would do next. This lady made crazy mistakes that really hurt her and that was frustrating to read, but still an amazing unique life. The description of life in the Soviet Union, although not surprising, was sobering. Well written and researched, and a seemingly very fair assessment of her life. I found this book absolutely fascinating. I admit I wasn't aware of this history, so it was an incredible story for me to read and I read constantly to see what Stalin's daughter would do next. This lady made crazy mistakes that really hurt her and that was frustrating to read, but still an amazing unique life. The description of life in the Soviet Union, although not surprising, was sobering. Well written and researched, and a seemingly very fair assessment of her life.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Natasa

    This is one of the most moving biographies I have ever read. The reader is by turns drawn to this affectionate, gifted intellectual and exasperated by her irrational, impulsive actions. Rosemary Sullivan’s portrait is beautifully written. The drama and emotion are at times unbearable. And so was the burden of living a life as Josef Stalin’s daughter.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin De bono

    Really enjoyed reading every page of this book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    What a life! Very well written and researched book. At first, I wished this could have been made into a mini-series, but after I finished the book, I am happy it wasn’t. I doubt anybody could do it justice. How this woman managed to stay sane with all she knew. She tried so hard to escape her name and history. But never could. Just as any other famous person’s offspring. People only want to know about the famous parent. What a brave woman and what a tormented life she had. She was never privile What a life! Very well written and researched book. At first, I wished this could have been made into a mini-series, but after I finished the book, I am happy it wasn’t. I doubt anybody could do it justice. How this woman managed to stay sane with all she knew. She tried so hard to escape her name and history. But never could. Just as any other famous person’s offspring. People only want to know about the famous parent. What a brave woman and what a tormented life she had. She was never privileged. She was sheltered against so much for a short time. When she finally realized just what her father was all about, the ruthlessness, the cruelty, the horrific crimes…I can’t imagine what agony she must have felt. She knew she would be identified with him and hated for it. And used for it forever. There was no way out. As she said, she hoped her books would convince the readers she had nothing to do with her father’s philosophy and the things he did. When they were in Russia, and Svetlana & her daughter Olga, toured her Mother’s old Georgian surroundings’, she “was appalled by the misery of it all”. I wonder how her American daughter is doing….such history must be quite a burden in many ways. Comments about Stalin’s death – it was difficult to imagine how a nation worshipped such a monster. For most, all people saw was a man who led the country through the war and turned a backward country into a superpower. His propaganda machine was all-powerful. I personally can’t understand it at all. Stalin murdered his own people for the slightest provocation. It is said he killed more than Hitler. How on earth the Russian people survived is beyond me. I had first heard about her first book, “Twenty Letters to a friend”, from a comment in a Bob Hope book. I marked it to read it one day… Surprisingly within 2 weeks or so that very book popped up in a local book sale. I heard the Twilight Zone music when I picked that book up. Even more surprising was that this very book was in my local library! Now I wonder what these coincidences mean?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    4 things will stand out for me: - this book is too long. It needs to be tightened. - the title is almost offensive after reading the book. Her whole life she tried to be known as something other than Stalin’s daughter. - hidden in all the ramblings, I could see the fear and other emotional trauma that happened from living in Stalin’s USSR - his type of regime could easily happen again. 2-3 stars.

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