Stalin's Daughter

Stalin's Daughter

The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

Book - 2015
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Stalin's Daughter is a work of narrative non-fiction on a grand scale, combining popular history and biography to tell the incredible story of a woman fated to live her life in the shadow of one of history's most monstrous dictators.

Svetlana Stalina, who died on November 22, 2011, at the age of eighty-five, was the only daughter and the last surviving child of Josef Stalin. Beyond Stalina's controversial defection to the US in a cloak-and-dagger escape via India in 1967, her journey from life as the beloved daughter of a fierce autocrat to death in small-town Wisconsin is an astonishing saga.

Publicly she was the young darling of her people; privately she was controlled by a tyrannical father who dictated her every move, even sentencing a man she loved to ten years' hard labour in Siberia. Svetlana burned her passport soon after her arrival in New York City and renounced both her father and the USSR. She married four times and had three children. Her last husband was William Wesley Peters, architect Frank Lloyd Wright's chief apprentice, with whom she lived at Taliesin West, Wright's desert compound in Arizona. In 1984, she returned to the Soviet Union, this time renouncing the US, and then reappeared in America two years later, claiming she had been manipulated by her homeland. She spoke four languages and was politically shrewd, even warning in the late '90s of the consequences of the rise to power of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin. A woman shaped and torn apart by her father's legacy, Svetlana Stalina spent her final years as a nomad, shuttling between England, France and the US.

In her research for Stalin's Daughter, Rosemary Sullivan had the full co-operation of Svetlana's American daughter, Olga. Rosemary interviewed dozens of people who knew Svetlana, including family and friends in Moscow and the CIA agent who was in charge of moving her from India when she defected. She also drew on family letters and on KGB, CIA, FBI, NARA and British Foreign Office files.

Publisher: Toronto, Ontario :, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd,, [2015]
Edition: First Canadian edition
ISBN: 9781443414425
9781443414432
Branch Call Number: 947.0842 SUL
Characteristics: xviii, 741 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Book Club Selection

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From Library Staff

Combining popular history and biography, Sullivan narrates the tragic story of Joseph Stalin’s only daughter, Svetlana Stalina, detailing her childhood under the controlling influence of her tyrannical father, her escape to the United States, her marriages and children, and her final years as a n... Read More »


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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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