Running from her father’s brutal legacy, Joseph Stalin’s daughter defects to the United States during the turbulence of the 1960s. For fans of We Were the Lucky Ones and A Gentleman in Moscow, this sweeping historical novel and unexpected love story is inspired by the remarkable life of Svetlana Alliluyeva.
“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
In one of the most momentous events of the Cold War, Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of the Soviet despot Joseph Stalin, abruptly abandoned her life in Moscow in 1967, arriving in New York to throngs of reporters and a nation hungry to hear her story. By her side is Peter Horvath, a young lawyer sent by the CIA to smuggle Svetlana into America.
She is a contradictory celebrity: charismatic and headstrong, lonely and haunted, excited and alienated by her adopted country’s radically different society. Persuading herself that all she yearns for is a simple American life, she attempts to settle into a suburban existence in Princeton, New Jersey. But one day an invitation from the widow of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright arrives, and Svetlana impulsively joins her cultlike community at Taliesin West. When this dream ends in disillusionment, Svetlana reaches out to Peter, the one person who understands how the chains of her past still hold her prisoner. Their relationship changes and deepens, moving from America to England to the Soviet Union and back again, unfolding under the eyes of her CIA minders, and Svetlana’s and Peter’s private lives are no longer their own.
Novelist John Burnham Schwartz’s father was in fact the young lawyer who escorted Svetlana Alliluyeva to the United States. Drawing upon private papers and years of extensive research, Schwartz imaginatively re-creates the story of an extraordinary, troubled woman’s search for a new life and a place to belong, in the powerful, evocative prose that has made him an acclaimed author of literary and historical fiction.
Praise for The Red Daughter
“Svetlana Alliluyeva’s life was endlessly fascinating, often heartbreaking, and ultimately heroic. I don’t think any writer alive could have told her story more beautifully than John Burnham Schwartz.”—David Benioff, co-creator of HBO’s Game of Thrones and author of City of Thieves
“The Red Daughter is an intimate, intricate look at the collision of geopolitics with a private life: surprising and engaging from beginning to end.”—Jennifer Egan
In this gripping historical about the defection of Stalin's only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, Schwartz (The Commoner) explores the wider political context that sharpens private tragedy. In 1967, the author's father, lawyer Alan U. Schwartz, accompanied Alliluyeva from Switzerland to the U.S., setting off a firestorm of media attention and controversy. Told via Svetlana's fictionalized journals, the story follows Svetlana, who, at age 41, abruptly abandons her homeland for the U.S., leaving her two children behind in hope that they can have a fresh start under a new identity. While attempting to hide her past from those she meets in the U.S., Svetlana also longs for connection. But after a short time working in Princeton, N.J., where she writes and gives lectures, she impulsively accepts an invitation to the cultlike fellowship run by Franklin Lloyd Wright's widow at Taliesin West in Arizona. While Alliluyeva gains lovers, friends, and has another child, she never fills the void created when she left Russsia and her family behind. With CIA minders never far, the fraught political relationship between Alliluyeva and the U.S. government provides another layer of intrigue. But this lovely novel's strength is the aching portrait of Svetlana: "not American, not Russian, neither this thing or that thing but always now between these things, which is the tragedy of my life." Filled with historical details that enliven and ground the fictionalized elements, Schwartz's elegant novel captures the emotion and strain of Alliluyeva's second life in the U.S..