Tuesday, July 14, 2015

by Rosemary Sullivan 

It's not a good thing to be the offspring of a leader of a country, especially when that leader is a tyrant. You will never have a life and will be forever doomed. So it was with Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Stalin.
Svetlana spent her childhood inside the Kremlin protected from the horrors outside that her father inflicted upon the citizens of the Soviet Union. But she saw tragedy very early on. Her mother, Nadya, committed suicide when Svetlana was six and a half years old. Uncles and aunts were arrested on false charges and executed.
After Stalin died in 1953, Svetlana discovered how cruel her father really was and how far it went. But the cruelty did not stop. Her older brother was arrested and friends were sent to the gulag (forced-labor camps).
When Svetlana was forty-one, she defected to the United States leaving her two children behind. She could no longer stand the oppression and wanted her freedom. Unfortunately Svetlana could never really find home and lived in the West like a gypsy constantly moving from place to place. Her father's shadow loomed over her from which she was not able to escape.
Don't be scared by the size of this book. At 623 pages, Stalin's Daughter is quite hefty, but easy to read. Rosemary Sullivan is a terrific writer and the prose flows effortlessly. After The Table of Contents, there are two pages of Family Trees: maternal and paternal. As you get into the book, you can refer to these if the names start to drive you crazy. After the Acknowledgements are a List of Characters. You really don't need to look at them until you are finished reading the entire book, because they won't make any sense to you nor will you remember all of them until you are done.
Sullivan is a great biographer and through her immense research was able to deftly create a riveting portrait of a misunderstood, lonely, but valiant woman.
Very highly recommended.