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.
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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 MagazineAbout 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.
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