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The Red Daughter

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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.

In one of the most momentous events of the Cold War, Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of the infamous 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.

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.


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 this gripping historical novel about the defection of Stalin’s only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, Schwartz explores the wider political context that sharpens private tragedy.”
Publishers Weekly
“Fact and fiction mingle seamlessly in a story of the defection and lonely wanderings of Josef Stalin’s only daughter…. In the richly detailed pages of [her] fictional journals, Svetlana recalls her dark girlhood in Russia…. An insightful and compelling saga of a woman desperately trying to escape her infamous past.”
Kirkus, Starred Review
“Schwartz again demonstrates his adroitness at illustrating the troubled lives of high-profile twentieth-century women… A perceptive exploration of identity, motherhood, and how one woman valiantly tried to shed the heavy mantle of her father’s infamous legacy.”
“This lovely novel’s strength is the aching portrait of Svetlana…. 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.”
Publishers Weekly
“…a fine and generous portrait…I read his novel in a single great draught, and ever since have been worried about Svetlana as though she were a close and troubled friend of mine….a lustrous book.”
—Lauren Groff
“I was surprised and engaged from the first paragraph of The Red Daughter, John Burnham Schwartz’s intimate, gorgeously-written study of the collision of geopolitics with private life.”
—Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach
The Red Daughter is one of those novels I wish I could have written, if only I were smarter. It’s an act of literary resurrection, bringing Svetlana Alliluyeva back to life and liberating her from her father’s shadow. 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
“a powerful tale of one daughter’s struggle to free herself and rewrite her own history.”
—Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank
“Like an old world alchemist, John Burnham Schwartz spins gold. We recognize something of ourselves in Svetlana’s complicated and conflicted soul…deeply insightful. The Red Daughter is brilliant, thoughtful and beautifully imagined—a masterpiece by a writer at his best.”
—Abraham Verghese, New York Times bestselling author of My Own Country