Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Red Daughter

The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz
Random House Publishing Group: 4/30/19
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781400068463 

The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz is a recommended fictionalized historical account of the defection of Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Joseph Stalin.

In 1967 at the age of 41, Svetlana Alliluyeva defected and came to America, abandoning her children, 16 and 21, in Moscow. A lawyer, Peter Horvath, is recruited by the CIA to assist the State Department in smuggling her into the USA. Her instant notoriety gains her some fame, but she claims she wants to live a simple American life. After sending Svetlana numerous letters, the widow of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright finally persuades her to visit the cult-like community in Arizona at Taliesin West. She ends up quickly marrying again, has another child, and it ends badly. She increasingly turns to Peter for support.
The novel is a fictionalized account based on the files of the author’s father, Alan U. Schwartz, who was the lawyer who accompanied Svetlana Alliluyeva to the United States. Schwartz has used his father's notes and years of research to create this fictionalized story based on historical facts.  What is clearly presented is that Svetlana was a tortured woman who, with her personal history, would have struggled with life to some extent no matter where she lived.

The technical quality writing is excellent. In the narrative, the course of Svetlana's life is based on known facts, but the emotions and feelings are all deductions. Fictional journal entries help develop her character while tell her past and present story. The novel is based on her life, but also has a huge heaping dose of added artistic license; so, the factual events of her life are captured, but the emotional turmoil is more of an extrapolation of what she might have been feeling or thinking. While reading the pacing and narrative felt uneven. Some parts of the novel soar and move quickly, others drag slowly along.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House Publishing Group.

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