The broad strokes of Svetlana Stalin’s story are probably well known to many baby boomers who would have followed media coverage of her defection to the West and perhaps even read her best-selling memoir. But the details of her sad, remarkable life read like something from a T.C. Boyle novel: association with cultish group led by Frank Lloyd Wright’s widow, an arranged marriage, making and losing a fortune, and life spent as a wandering expat ending in poverty in rural Wisconsin. In the hands of the author of the wonderful Villa Air-Bel and with access to new archival material, this story comes vividly, if sadly, alive.
Review coverage is coming in the NYTBR, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, WSJ and Washington Post. With three starred advance reviews, I expect that many more review outlets will also be covering the book.
“A biography of haunting fascination portrays its subject as a pawn of historical circumstance who tried valiantly to create her own life. Canadian biographer Sullivan’s previous works often took her into the complicated lives of women artists, and in this sympathetic biography of Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva (1926-2011), the author has illuminated another challenging, mercurial subject.… With great compassion, Sullivan reveals how both sides played her for their own purposes, yet she was a writer first and foremost, a passionate Russian soul who wanted a human connection yet could not quite find the way into the Western heart. The author manages suspense and intrigue at every turn.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Stalin’s only daughter, lived an almost impossible life at the edges of 20th-century history…. Sullivan masterfully employs interviews, Alliluyeva’s own letters, and the contents of CIA, KGB, and Soviet archives to stitch together a coherent narrative of her fractured life… A head-spinning journey as Alliluyeva attempts to escape her father’s shadow without ever fully comprehending the man who cast it.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Sullivan draws on previously secret documents and interviews with Svetlana’s American daughter, her friends, and the CIA ‘handler’ who escorted her to the U.S. for riveting accounts of her complicated life.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“Svetlana Alliluyeva had a tragic life, one almost preordained when she was born to Joseph Stalin. First, growing up under the Soviet dictator, then being almost a prisoner of the state after his death and then being used cynically after her defection. The story of this woman’s quest to find some peace and joy in her life is both sad and informative, shedding a human light on the paranoia of the Cold War years and one can’t help but have sympathy for the little girl who could never escape the shadow of her infamous father.”
— Bill Cusumano, Square Books, Oxford, MS
Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (9780062206107) by Rosemary Sullivan. $35.00 hardcover. 6/2/15 on sale.