Sunday 19 May 2019

The Red Daughter

Finished May 7
The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz

This is a fictionalized biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. A lot of the story is real, but the main relationship between Svetlana and her American lawyer is not, and the lawyer here is heavily fictionalized. The author has access to a lot of documents and people that were unique as his father was the real lawyer that worked for Svetlana during much of her time in the United States.
Here, the lawyer, Peter Horvath, is made literary editor for Svetlana after her death, and as he puts together the various papers, he also takes his mind back to the past and their complicated relationship. Brought in by the CIA to travel with Svetlana from Switzerland to the U.S., Peter and her share a unique experience. As he tries to make her transition more comfortable, he brings her into his personal life by inviting her to his summer home near the ocean. And thus begins a lifelong antipathy by his wife for this woman she deems a rival.
As Svetlana makes connections, she also gets drawn into a controlling relationship by Frank Lloyd Wright's widow and the lawyer was the one asked to give her away when she married Wright's widowed son-in-law. The marriage doesn't last, but it does produce a son.
This insight into the life of an extremely troubled woman, manipulated by many in her life, was a fantastic read. I learned about the real story with empathy.

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