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Biography & Autobiography Women

Stalin's Daughter

The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

by (author) Rosemary Sullivan

Initial publish date
Jun 2016
Women, World War II, Russia & the Former Soviet Union
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
    List Price
    $35.00 USD
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2016
    List Price
    $18.99 USD
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
    List Price
    $34.99 USD
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
    List Price

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Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

PEN Literary 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 is an acclaimed biographer, poet and editor. She is the author of nine books of non-fiction, including Villa Air-Bel, which was awarded a Canadian Jewish Book Award; Labyrinth Of Desire: Women, Passion and Romantic Obsession; By Heart: Elizabeth Smart—A Life and the #1 bestseller The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood, Starting Out. Her biography of Gwendolyn MacEwen, Shadow Maker, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award, the Toronto Book Award and the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography. Sullivan’s journalistic pieces have won her a National Magazine Awards silver medal and a Western Journalism first prize for travelogue; her academic honours include Killam, Trudeau and Guggenheim fellowships. She lives in Toronto, where she is a professor of English at the University of Toronto.

Rosemary Sullivan's profile page

Editorial Reviews

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

<em><strong>San Francisco Chronicle</strong></em>

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

<em><strong>Los Angeles Magazine</strong></em>

“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.”

<em><strong>Library Journal</strong></em>

“…[an] arresting biography.”

<strong><em>More Magazine</em></strong>

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

<em><strong>Washington Post</strong></em>

“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… A head-spinning journey as Alliluyeva attempts to escape her father’s shadow without ever fully comprehending the man who cast it.”

<strong><em>Publishers Weekly</em> (starred review)</strong>

“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.”

<em><strong>Philadelphia Inquirer</strong></em>

“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.”

<strong>Simon Sebag Montefiore, bestselling author of <em>Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar</em></strong>

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

<em><strong>Minneapolis Star-Tribune</strong></em>

“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.”


“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.”

<em><strong>New York Review of Books</strong></em>

“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.”

<strong><em>Publishers Weekly</em> (starred review)</strong>

“In her poignant biography, Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan tells Alliluyeva’s story with sympathy and sharp psychological insight.…Stalin’s Daughter soars on details culled from dozens of interviews and impressive archival research from KGB and CIA files. The glimpses into the Stalin household are invariably fascinating, and the subsequent wanderings of Svetlana as she searches for inner peace take on an epic quality. 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.”


“[A] magisterial biography.”

<strong><em>O Magazine</em></strong>

“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.”

<strong>Cokie Roberts, <em>New York Times</em> bestselling author of <em>Founding Mothers</em>, <em>Ladies of Liberty</em>, and <em>Capital Dames</em></strong>

“[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.”

<strong>Janet Maslin, <em>New York Times</em> Book Review</strong>

“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.”

<strong><em>Booklist</em> (starred review)</strong>

“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.”

<em><strong>Wall Street Journal</strong></em>

“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.”

<em><strong>Los Angeles Times</strong></em>

“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.”

<em><strong>Dallas Morning News</strong></em>

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

<em><strong>Christian Science Monitor</strong></em>

“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.”

<strong>Olga Grushin, <em>New York Times Book Review</em></strong>

“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.”

<strong><em>Boston Globe, Best Books of 2015</em></strong>

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