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The Red Daughter

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  701 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Running from her father’s brutal legacy, Joseph Stalin’s daughter defects to the United States during the turbulence of the 1960s. For fans of We Were the Lucky Ones and A Gentleman in Moscow, this sweeping historical novel and unexpected love story is inspired by the remarkable life of Svetlana Alliluyeva.

In one of the most momentous events of the Cold War, Svetlana Allil
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by Random House
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Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I am a huge fan of historical fiction, especially when it’s about a time, place or person I know little to nothing about. The Red Daughter covers Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin, so it fit the bill.

The book purports to be a collection of excerpts from her private journals, letters and Editor’s Notes, written by Peter Horvath, the lawyer who helped her reach the US.

The chapters acting as her journal entries look back at her life starting with her memories of her mother’s
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
A cold historical novel about a very unhappy woman, The Red Daughter didn’t work for me. I can barely muster up the energy to review it. I realize that authors of historical fiction play fast and loose with the facts for the sake of narrative, but this author’s monkeying around with the facts was too fast and too loose and didn’t enhance the narrative in the least. The most jarring example is a concocted love affair which presumably was created to add interest to Svetlana’s (or Lana Peters if yo ...more
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
3.25 stars

I tend to find anything to do with the history of the Cold War era and Eastern Europe interesting – fiction and non-fiction. The Red Daughter is an odd mixture of both. I read it with interest but I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. The book is described as a novel, but it is about Svetlana Alliluyeva, who was Joseph Stalin’s daughter, focusing on the time in her life after she immigrated to the United States. In real life, the author’s father was an American lawyer who
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
The Red Daughter was a disappointment. I love Schwartz's previous novels (especially The Commoner) so I was really excited to read his take on the life of Joseph Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, who left the USSR in the late 1960s, "defecting" to the United States. Svetlana was a fascinating (and extremely complicated) woman so historical fiction about her? Yes, please! But it's not historical fiction if you basically toss out all of the history--it's just fiction. And while there's nothi ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Svetlana Alliluyeva is the only daughter of the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was a brutal leader and millions of his own people died during his horrific reign. He was a cold, insensitive man. But he loved his little girl and called her “my little housekeeper”. Then Svetlana grew up and fell in love with a young man who her father didn’t like. He cruelly had the man arrested and deported to Siberia. Thus began the estrangement between Svetlana and her father.

In 1967, Svetlana decided to
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Red Daughter has no doubt been a huge labour of love for the author, and it really shows in this exceptional hybrid biography/fiction. It is primarily a cleverly disguised account of one fearless woman and the life and times in which she lived. Svetlana Alliluyeva, notorious tyrannical leader Joseph Stalin's only daughter, managed to embarrass the Soviet Union by defecting in 1967 and becoming a naturalised citizen of their sworn enemy: the United States. This book mainly follows the defecti ...more
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This historical novel looks at the life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. The author uses an unpublished memoir as the device to tell her story, which is really a loosely disguised biography. This memoir is left to Peter Horvath, who was sent to Switzerland to escort Svetlana to the United States, when she defected.

Although Stalin is, obviously, the reason why Svetlana is of historical interest, the character herself remembers her mother as central to her childhood. Sh
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I struggle with this review simply because I fear my words won’t adequately capture the beauty of this book. I found “The Red Daughter” to be an incredible portrayal of the historical figure, Svetlana Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin’s daughter. For me, the beauty of this book came through the author’s ability to capture the pain, oppressiveness, and violence of Russia through his rich but somewhat stark writing. The author is not writing a novel strictly about a time in history but rather focusing on ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I doubt the name Svetlana Alliluyeva means anything to most of us today, but Joseph Stalin’s daughter was a political hot potato when she defected from Mother Russia during the Cold War.  Whether you know of her, and regardless of your knowledge of the Cold War and Russian history, you will tear through this novelization of Svetlana’s life.  Mr. Schwartz writes of her confusing and privileged young life and provides the background to her defection, but the story is primarily that of her life aft ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Based on 15%: The prose is very dry, it reads like an encyclopedia. What also is striking, missing plot. This does not read like a novel. It is not an engaging read for me to continue with this book.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
'She survived her life, which maybe under the circumstances is maybe sort of heroic.'

John Burnham Schwartz takes liberty with his fictions, imagining the life of Josef Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva, as she defects from the communist state to America in 1967, leaving behind her son and daughter, carrying with her the stain of her father’s infamy. Always thereafter to be ‘a foreigner in every sense of the word’ having left her homeland, a
Written in the style of a memoir, this is a novel about Joseph Stalin's only daughter, who defected to the US.

Perhaps due to the memoir style, there is a lot of "telling" rather than "showing", and the narrative feels very disjointed, hopping from one thing to the next and only briefly detailing important events in Svetlana's life that could have been used to really flesh out the characters and story.

I was really hoping this novel would give me great insight into a historical figure and subject
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers of literary and historical fiction
Beautiful, rich, elegant writing. Perhaps the most deeply intimate of all the literary historical novels I've read. A fascinating look, too, at the high-stakes chess game played by the (male, of course) leaders, who orchestrated the Cold War on both sides, and of a woman, buffeted by both, haunted by her legacy and yet determined to set her own course. Not since Tolstoy's Natasha (War & Peace) have I read a more vivid, fully realized portrait of a young woman coming of age against the backdrop o ...more
Heather Fineisen
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
A fictional account of the defection of Stalin's daughter to the U.S. Leaving her two almost grown children behind, Lana forges a life with a marriage and another child. Her relationship with her attorney is the focus here with an imaginative telling in a journal and letters format with Editor's notes from her attorney. Although not historically accurate, enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley
Mar 11, 2019 marked it as to-read
As a fan of historical fiction, I found The Red Daughter dull and academic. It's more like it's written for study instead of leisure reading. The narrative is too wordy and complicated. This woman has a great story, but it's not executed well here. It's a deep literature kind of read for the more studious readers. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Jenni DaVinCat
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book has left me feeling sort of frustrated. I understand that it's historical fiction, but it would appear that there is a lot more emphasis on the "fiction" aspect rather than the "historical". I find this to be a strange choice for the author, considering that he is the son of the lawyer who brought Svetlana to the USA in the first place. He actually DID have inside knowledge on who she was and how her life was in the US, but instead chose to create this fictional version of the woman wh ...more
Ken Hunt
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Historical fiction written as though by the American attorney who facilitated Stalin's daughter's defection to the US in 1967 as he discovered her personal diary upon her death and recounts his perspective on her entries. The attorney in real life is the actual author John Burnham Schwartz's father. Thanks to David Robeson for the recommendation, I completely get why you made me aware of this. The story is fascinating, I will say I was hoping for a bit more of the macro intrigue about her defect ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for an ARC of The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz.
I am normally a fan of historical fiction BUT it has to have more history than fiction for me to enjoy it. The book is about Stalin's daughter. My favorite part of the book was her childhood in Russia and off and on the relationship with her father. He seemed cold and cruel to everyone around him except the daughter who he"lovingly" called "housekeeper." ( Go figure that one!) Once she had a boyfriend
S.G. Wright
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. This novel, which follows the life and defection to the U.S. of Joseph Stalin's only daughter in 1967 and the U.S. lawyer who helped her do it, really left a mark on me. Wow what a complex and conflicted woman and time in history! She was obviously not an easy person and made various disastrous decisions, which haunted her the rest of her life. But she was also bright and sympathetic -- a woman who wished to escape her father's legacy and past and lived in numerous places. You really ...more
Melissa Dee
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Red Daughter is a fictionalization of the life in America of Svetlana Alliluyeva, written by the son of the lawyer who accompanied her to the US when she defected. I really enjoyed the Cold War setting and the (fictional) glimpses of such figures as Stalin, George Kennan, and Alliluyeva herself. I’m left a bit unsure about the mix of fact and fiction that I’ve just read, and that is somewhat unsettling. Alliluyeva herself was a complicated character, self-absorbed and incredibly damaged by h ...more
This was a fascinating account of the life of Stalin’s daughter. The author’s father in actuality was the attorney who accompanied Svetlana to the US, and maintained a lifelong friendship with her. The novel gives to the relationship a romantic nature, but the book is otherwise based on actual events.

Svetlana had a tortured relationship with Stalin, her despicable father, and she eventually fled to the US. Her life story was engrossing, and we learned of her relationships, marriages, children,
Karen Raskin
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Just ok. Sometimes absorbing, sometimes not. Historical fiction based on the defection of Stalin's daughter, Svetlana, to the U.S. (and then back to the Soviet Union and then back to the U.S.) Even according to the author's afterward, though, only very loosely based on historical facts. In any event, her life was at the same time interesting and pathetically sad.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting historical fiction. The writing coming from “Lana” was especially potent and beautifully written. I was disappointed that the author did not complete some of the story lines which I felt would have made the book more complete. However, there are sentences in the book that I will go back to again and again because they were so profound!
Alicia Huxtable
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow!! I thoroughly enjoyed this lively and quite engaging story about Svetlana. The detail that was put into this qork of art was truely fascinating even if the author does declare it a work of fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've loved all of Schwartz' books, but this may be his best and most ambitious yet. A must-read.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Couldn't put it down. Ordering copies for my book group next month.
Paul Lemcke
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
What an uninteresting person Svetlana was. All she could do in this fictionalized memoir was make one bad decision after another to disrupt her family and make everyone around her uncomfortable. The only thing interesting was that she was Stalin's daughter, and she spent her life hiding from that (not surprisingly). I thought that the author was very capable of writing interesting sentences and paragraphs, but given that this is a fictionalized account, it would have been nice if he had found or ...more
Oct 23, 2019 added it
I didn't actually get very far this one. It was kind of hard to get engaged in at the beginning, but the subject matter is of interest to me and I'm familiar with the writer ... so I will try again at another time.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I went to see the author talk. He was very interesting. I like the writing of this book and it has made me want to learn more about Svetlana.
Dawn Michelle
The best thing about this book for me was learning that Frank Lloyd Wright was Welsh [which, in all my research on the man, I somehow missed] and that knowledge further explained my draw to him [I am of Welsh descent]. The rest....OMG what a bunch of poorly written tripe.

At the end of the book, the author makes it clear [three times in fact], that this is a work of fiction. That there is actually very little "historical" accuracy in it at all. He basically took a real life character, a story th
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John Burnham Schwartz grew up in New York City. At Harvard College, he majored in Japanese studies, and upon graduation accepted a position with a prominent Wall Street investment bank, before finally turning the position down after selling his first novel. Schwartz has taught fiction writing at Harvard, The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and Sarah Lawrence College, and he is the literary d ...more

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