The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz
Random House Publishing Group: 4/30/19
eBook review copy; 288 pages
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
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
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.
My review copy was courtesy of Random House Publishing Group.