The Red Daughter

John Burnham Schwartz      Pages: 268       Published: 2019

The book: Svetlana Alliluyeva was the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. Her high-profile defection to the USA in 1967 caused an international stir.
Schwartz has conjured up a fictional telling of Svetlana’s story that is loosely based on fact and an imagined relationship with Schwartz’s own father, who did in fact have some dealings with her in real life.

You might like it because: It’s an incredibly interesting tale, which moves between Russia, the USA, and Europe. Svetlana is an intriguing and mysterious character.

What did other people say?
The Red Daughter does exactly what good historical fiction should do: It sends you down the rabbit hole to read and learn more.” – The New York Times Book Review

“Richly detailed . . . an insightful and compelling saga of a woman desperately trying to escape her infamous past … Fact and fiction mingle seamlessly in a story of the defection and lonely wanderings of Josef Stalin’s only daughter.”- Kirkus Reviews 

How quickly will you get into the book? It’s an intriguing story; three pages in I was hooked. Wanting to know more about Stalin’s daughter kept me turning the pages.

You might not like it because: The novel covers a lot of Svetlana’s life, both real and imagined, but I never felt I got to a point where I could understand her as a person. Perhaps she was just too complex and difficult to understand, but either way, some readers may be disappointed by the lack of insight into her character.

What might you read next?
In the novel a number of books are mentioned at various points by characters in the story. You might want to read one or all of them.

You could read The Third Man, by Graham Greene, a thriller set in Vienna during the aftermath of World War II.

Or read a story set during the cold war, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carré.

Or, for something completely different, pick up My Antonia, by Willa Cather, which is set in Nebraska at the end of the nineteenth century.

© 2019


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