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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,513 ratings  ·  517 reviews
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
Hardcover, 741 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Harper
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Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Elyse  Walters
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
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,
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 ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“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
Steven Z.
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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?
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
"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 ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
A biography of Stalin's daughter—three-time defector, financially successful author who ended her days in penury, satellite of the Taliesin commune, witness to searing moments of personal and political history—seems like a can't-miss proposition. It turns out, though, that if the author is in love with her own armchair psychologizing, it can be a pretty grating disappointment. And boy howdy does Sullivan think her own insights here are piercing: the early chapters are full of portentous statemen ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Jennifer Stringer
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russophile, biography
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 ...more
Oct 12, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, russia
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
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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' ...more
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.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Tofts Reviews
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Eva Stachniak
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
May 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kevin De bono
Really enjoyed reading every page of this book!
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jessica Gunn
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took a long time to read as it is a very large book for me. I really enjoyed the style of writing and it made me feel like I really knew Svetlana. Russian history has always had a special place in my heart and I find it fascinating. I am very pleased with myself for finally making it through this book and enjoying it still!
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really fascinating biography! I listened to this as an audiobook and although it was lengthy, Svetlana’s life was fascinating enough that I was hooked all the way through
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Rosemary Sullivan (born 1947) is a Canadian poet, biographer, and anthologist.

(from Wikipedia)

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“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?” 2 likes
“Svetlana 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 her decades to break, if she ever succeeded.” 1 likes
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