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

Narrated by: Karen Cass
Length: 19 hrs and 48 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)
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Summary

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.

©2015 Rosemary Sullivan (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Critic reviews

Praise for Rosemary Sullivan's previous books:

"As a poet and writer, [Rosemary Sullivan] knows that life is lived not as theory but as practice, that we exist on earth not as ideas but as living creatures, and that you can understand nothing about a place without listening to individual people and their stories. She has concerned herself with intense particulars." (Margaret Atwood)
"Original and engrossing. I couldn't stop reading." (Alice Munro)
"Her scene-by-scene evocation of life at the house reads like an updated Chekhov comedy laced with horror." (Financial Times)
"It's history, it's intrigue. It's nonfiction. It's a real page-turner." (New York Magazine)
"Sullivan brilliantly interweaves personal histories with terrifying tales." (Sunday Times)
"This is a magnificent, complex narrative of courage, folly, and complacency...a beautifully narrated book." (Telegraph)
"With tremendous suspense and emotional pull, Sullivan recounts the little-known story of Varian Fry." (Vogue)
"A fascinating analysis of the female psyche and of the phenomenon of obsessive love." (Elle Magazine)

What members say

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Extraordinary tumultuous sums it up

What did you like most about Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva?

Fascinating life with unbelievable twists and turns. If it was fiction you wouldn't believe it.

What did you like best about this story?

Insights into Stalin and other famous historical characters. The way Svetlana was treated was insightful about human nature generally. Used by so many people but she was not a victim a strong character with her own ideas.

What does Karen Cass bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Well read made for great listening.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Many moments. Perhaps the disappointment Svetlana felt on being reunited with her children in the USSR.

Any additional comments?

Thoroughly researched but reads more like a novel.

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A life lived in pursuit of integrity and truth

This is the story of a person comming to terms with a reality they had no hand in creating but for which they felt partly responsible. It a story of courage, determination, foolishness at times, but above all an attempt to do the right thing with ones life.

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excellent biography!

extraordinary and tumultuous life indeed! let down by both, east and west, in equal measure...in search and in need of freedom but never free.

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Hard to say

Tried hard with this book, but giving up now, half way through.

Its a detailed and well researched book. And a very interesting subject. And the reader is skilled. Yet overall I am left feeling that I'm not getting to know the subject of the book, ie. Svetlana, let alone care about her as a person.

The very English voice of the reader is cheerful in a sing song, matter of fact sort of way. And this contrasts strangely with the macabre and at times terrible subject matter. Perhaps its an intentional choice on the publishers part, giving the performance a sort of avant garde sense of horror.

None the less, theres a lot of factual information in this book. So if you are studying 20th century Russian history, its probably well worth the time.

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Flawless Rendering of a Remarkable Life

This account of the life of Stalin's only daughter is captivating throughout, thanks to both that author's exhaustive researched, well-crafted narrative and an authoritative yet sympathetic reading.