Stalin's Daughter (Hardcover)

The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

By Rosemary Sullivan

Harper, 9780062206107, 768pp.

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (6/1/2015)
Paperback (6/21/2016)
Pre-Recorded Audio Player (6/2/2015)

List Price: 35.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

PEN Literary Award Finalist

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

New York Times Notable Book

Washington Post Notable Book

Boston Globe Best Book of the Year

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 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.

About the Author

Rosemary Sullivan has written poetry, short fiction, biography, literary criticism, reviews, and articles. Her recent books include the critically acclaimed Villa Air-Bel and Labyrinth of Desire. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and has been awarded Guggenheim, Camargo, and Trudeau Fellowships. She is a recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded by the Royal Society of Canada for her contribution to literature and culture, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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

“[A] measured, informative admiring portrait of an amazingly adaptable person facing all but insurmountable odds…[and who] refused to let her lineage seal her fate.”
— Janet Maslin, New York Times Book Review

“Riveting…. Throughout, Sullivan treats the wealth of facts she has uncovered with a sensitive, compassionate touch…. Sullivan tells a nuanced story that, while invariably sympathetic, nonetheless allows readers the freedom of their own interpretations.”
— Olga Grushin, New York Times Book Review

“Compelling…. Sullivan takes us confidently through an eventful life…. It’s to Ms. Sullivan’s credit that, at least in these pages, Alliluyeva herself is proved…a fascinating person not simply because of her name but because she was a willful, intelligent, passionate woman who resisted being gawked at as a freak of history: the monster’s pretty daughter.”
Wall Street Journal

“[An] extraordinary book…. Rosemary Sullivan possesses the sensitivity necessary to unlock a beguiling and complex character worthy of admiration, not ridicule…. Superb.”
Washington Post

“A child of the Kremlin who as an adult defected to the United States, Svetlana led a strange and often sad life; Sullivan brings deep scholarship and sympathy to her story.”
Boston Globe, Best Books of 2015

“A principal virtue of…Sullivan’s empathetic Stalin’s Daughter is the vivid sense it offers of Alliluyeva…. Sullivan does a nice job of conveying her subject’s point of view without accepting it as the last word.”
Los Angeles Times

Stalin’s Daughter is a poignant look at the struggles of a dictator’s offspring.”
Christian Science Monitor

“[A] magisterial biography.”
O Magazine

“Sullivan tells Alliluyeva’s story with sympathy and sharp psychological insight.… [It] soars…. It is to Sullivan’s credit that she makes the Homeric wanderings of Svetlana Alliluyeva—who died, almost penniless, in 2011—not only comprehensible, but also unforgettably moving.”

“Sullivan does an admirable job of researching, organizing and contextualizing the events of Alliluyeva’s bewildering life.… It is an excellent book, and deserves a wide readership.”
Dallas Morning News

“Compassionate and compelling, Sullivan sensitively delivers the intimate, tragic life story of a woman who was Stalin’s only daughter in all its strangeness…. This is not a political story but a quest for love in the heart of darkness.”
— Simon Sebag Montefiore, bestselling author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

“If it weren’t for the pages of scrupulous footnotes and the many interviews Rosemary Sullivan pursued you would be convinced that this was fiction. But it’s a true story, thrillingly told in this fast-paced, fascinating biography.”
— Cokie Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and Capital Dames

“A detailed, sensitive and…sympathetic account of Alliluyeva’s turbulent and tragic life.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Although other authors have provided more systematic analysis of the substance and mechanics of Stalin’s terror, Rosemary Sullivan…provides one of the more emotionally draining illustrations of Stalin’s evil.… As Sullivan makes clear, Stalin’s daughter led a full and dramatically tumultuous life.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“A compelling biography…Sullivan tells [Alliluyeva’s] story with sympathy and verve.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

““With a gentle literary touch, [Sullivan] lets readers follow Alliluyeva as she wanders the U.S. and U.K….”
Los Angeles Magazine

“Revealing…. Sullivan’s biography takes us beyond…obvious truth and helps us understand, through Svetlana’s stormy history, the nature of regimes that are as brutal as Stalin’s was.”
New York Review of Books

“…[an] arresting biography.”
More Magazine

“Sullivan draws on previously secret documents and interviews with Svetlana’s American daughter, her friends, and the CIA “handler” who escorted her to the U.S. for riveting accounts of her complicated life.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A biography of haunting fascination…. The author has illuminated another challenging, mercurial subject.… The author manages suspense and intrigue at every turn.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Stalin’s only daughter, lived an almost impossible life at the edges of 20th-century history…. Sullivan masterfully employs interviews, Alliluyeva’s own letters, and the contents of CIA, KGB, and Soviet archives to stitch together a coherent narrative of her fractured life.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Insightful and thoroughly researched.… This excellent and engrossing biography is suitable for anyone interested in Russian history or in Svetlana’s struggle to make a difference in a world that never could separate her from her.”
Library Journal

Praise for Villa Air-Bel: “A moving and richly detailed account.”
— Boston Globe

“Villa Air-Bel is a most welcome book, a triumph of the human spirit”
— Philadelphia Inquirer

“With tremendous suspense and emotional pull, Sullivan recounts the little-known story of Varian Fry, the intrepid young American who sheltered [dozens of artists and intellectuals] helping them and hundreds more escape from Vichy France.”
— Vogue

“Sullivan brilliantly interweaves personal histories with terrifying tales about flight over mountains to Spain or Switzerland and by sea to Casablanca or Martinique….At the centre is Varian Fry, the quiet American.”
— Sunday Times (London)

“Rosemary Sullivan’s Villa Air-Bel is a marvellous addition to the surging literature on occupied France. Sullivan writes not as a historian-she has little new material-but as a dramatist.Her scene-by-scene evocation of life at the house reads like an updated Chekhov comedy laced with horror.”
— Financial Times

“This is a magnificent, complex narrative of courage, folly, and complacency...a beautifully narrated book.”
— Telegraph

“Gripping...Sullivan captures the tense atmosphere of France as the Germans invaded and the fear and anxiety of the intellectuals, some held in detention camps and some who ignored the danger until it was nearly too late.”
— Booklist

“A moving tale of great sacrifice in tumultuous times.”
— Publishers Weekly

“[Villa Air-Bel] bring[s] to life those committed Americans and Europeans who risked all to help others...A complex tale showing how hope and courage flourish, even in the toxic soil of totalitarianism.”
— Kirkus Reviews