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Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (2015)

av Rosemary Sullivan

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
387965,552 (3.98)14
"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"--… (mer)
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For me, this Stalin's Daughter had two parts - Svetlana's life in Russia and her life after she defected. I picked up the book to read the first part and found myself slogging through many chapters of the second part. However, once I committed to reading the whole book (it's 600 pages not counting the references at the end), I found myself becoming more interested in the incredibly impulsive life of Stalin's only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva.

Author Rosemary Sullivan's research is impressive and her writing style smooth and conversational.
While I think Sullivan did an amazing and thorough job - the kind of biography Alliluyeva deserves - as a reader, much of the second part felt unnecessary and was frustrating to read. (After defecting from Russia, her life becomes incredibly socially complicated and it seems that all spats and slights are documented in this book.) ( )
  Jenn4567 | Mar 3, 2023 |
I feel like Rosemary Sullivan and Laura Hillenbrand went to the same school of biography writing. There's such immediacy to the way they write and backed up with solid research. Clearly there's some creative licence taken but I feel that's unavoidable in any biography. It just depends on the author's intentions regarding absolute facts and readability. You can drily say the person walked every time they walked or you can say they staggered sauntered shuffled instead to achieve the scene you're trying to set. In any case, there are more than enough references to back up the facts that the emotive aspects as described by Sullivan comes across as authentic.

Svetlana, Svetlana, what a life. Or indeed what so many lives she had to live. The book begins with her defection and what an extremely effective way of immediately realising her complexities. Then the story more or less begins chronologically from her childhood with her defection serving as a clean midway point between her Soviet life and her American life.

Throughout, the book remained fast-paced and well-written and researched, maintaining the tension and intrigue. Svetlana is rendered sympathetically but not faultless. I wonder how different her life would've been if she never went to Taliesin. Or would there have been another manipulation around the corner? Perhaps as the daughter of such an infamous man, there was just no escaping the rumours and exploitation. In the end, Svetlana seemed to have continued living exactly the way she wanted under her circumstances and I hope Olga/Chrese is too.

Things of note:
- The first leg of Svetlana's defection flights to the US was a Qantas flight to Rome. Who at the original Qantas set-up could've imagined that one day, one of its flights!
- The defection flight timeline is still a bit confusing for me as the book says if only the underling had checked the flight status after receiving vehement opposition to Svetlana's defection, they would've realised they could've been recalled since they've been sitting in the airport for two hours. But the paragraph before said that the opposition only sent through after the flight had taken off?
- Sullivan described "webbed toes" as one of the reasons Stalin never swam but surely that's an advantage!
- The exact sentence "Beria was a Mingrelian from Western Georgia" appeared twice over a hundred pages which made me smile thinking that Sullivan just had that phrase saved on her notes. A peek behind the process!
- Even after the book informed us that Olga wanted to be called Chrese, the book continued referring to her as Olga. I wonder who made that decision to use her old name and why?
- The book did a trick on me by saying that Olga/Chrese won against her mother's flightiness and would stay at the same boarding school until she was eighteen. Then next chapter, Svetlana uprooted her back to the Soviet Union for eighteen months!

Aside: recently I had been recommended articles with headlines such as Who Betrayed Anne Frank, which I've been firmly not clicking. And only the other day, I saw that there was a book recently published on that very topic, written by no other than Rosemary Sullivan! But just as with the articles, I probably won't partake. ( )
  kitzyl | Jan 23, 2022 |
I thought this was a really good biography of a woman whose name was a bit too much to bear. It is a shame that she often felt cheated and lied to for much of her life. ( )
  Jimbookbuff1963 | Jun 5, 2021 |
I listened to the audio version on a long car trip.
I’m not sure if the print version has a family tree as i found it difficult to follow all of the people that the author refers to.
This is a long biography of Svetlana Stalin the only daughter of Joseph Stalin, the former leader of the Soviet Union.
She was born in 1926 and lived until November 22 2011.
Her mother Nadia committed suicide when Svetlana was only 6 years old which meant that she was raised by governesses and relatives while her father ruled the Soviet Union. She was unaware of he father’s various pogroms, famines and murders until she was an adult. She adopted her mother’s last name Alliluyeva when she realized the significance of her father’s past. She defected to the United States in 1967 while on a trip to India to spread her husband’s ashes.
Rosemary Sullivan has uncovered and described a huge amount of research about this woman and has created a readable yet lengthy story of her life. Svetlana married 4 times and had three children. She abandoned her two children Joseph and Katya when she defected to the USA. She married the architect Wesley Peters and gave birth to a daughter Olga in 1971. As an American she used the name Lana Peters.
The psychological profile this woman is interesting. She was very intelligent and sociable but also very naive, impulsive and paranoid at times. Once in the USA she struggled to find a career and wrote Twenty letters to a friend, a her memoir about her life in the Soviet Union. Although she earned quite a sum at the time, she had no money sense and was naive about her finances. She overspent on family and friends spent her later years in financial difficulty. ( )
1 rösta MaggieFlo | Feb 27, 2018 |
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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"--

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