Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan

(Book 135) Sharon hosted a small group, only four of us, at yes, you guessed it, another new home. (I think this is the sixth residence she’s had since she joined us but I’ve lost count.) Once assembled, Sharon came to us from the kitchen and was surprised to find us already talking about the book. I think I’d started it by asking whether others in the group had been aware of Svetlana’s defection when it happened. I remember being vaguely aware of Rudolf Nureyev’s defection, but remembered nothing of Stalin’s daughter. Melissa, our properties mistress, brought along a copy of Life Magazine in which Svetlana was interviewed and we had quite a discussion about her life. (Svetlana’s, not Melissa’s.) Karen brought up that it was strange to read that in Russia, abortion is regarded as a means of birth control, and I told my story of a Russian manicurist that I used to go to saying to me conversationally “When I had my first abortion…” We talked quite a lot about Svetlana’s need to be in a relationship, to be in love, to have someone in love with her even though she was such a strong, independent woman in other aspects of her life. We discussed the extent to which her father was responsible for this weakness, and of course we spent some time marveling at how so many people were certain that he wasn’t responsible for all the death and imprisonment of their fellow Russians. Sharon mentioned that the way his death is described in the book is exactly as it was depicted in the movie The Death of Stalin and we had to talk about the movie just a bit. We considered Svetlana’s unfortunate relationship with the Frank Lloyd Wright community at Taliesin. Sharon wondered about the accuracy of that information and said she’d like to read more about it. One or more of us remarked that the author may have tried to use every single bit of her research and that the book may have been better served by some editing, but that in general, it is a fascinating read.

Sharon’s new place is lovely, as Linda mentioned, it has a tree-top view of the world. I couldn’t show the rest of the girls the view but I made up a card to tell them what they had missed food-wise. My document wouldn’t upload here, but here is a copy and paste:

A Picnic on the Black Sea

Appetizer — flat bread topped with your choice of honeyed goat cheese and topped with pesto or goat cheese with fig and topped with prosciutto.

Main Course —many grilled salmon patties, served with potato salad and a salad of mango, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes on lettuce leaves

Dessert — key lime pie with a graham cracker and macadamia nut crust, stabilized whipped cream and lime zest

Everything was yummy and I know someone has already asked for the salad recipe, but I will reiterate the request because it was so delicious. The table was set with bud vases holding a single sunflower in each because Sharon has seen a stream of people carrying plastic sunflowers after visiting the Van Gogh exhibit nearby. Sharon gave us each one of the sunflowers in its vase to take home at the end of the evening.

We talked about our August meeting but couldn’t set a date because too few of us were there. Marcia, who was not in attendance, had offered to host in August, but Sharon felt strongly that Marcia should take it easy on herself and reconsider hosting right after her move. The rest of us agreed that we would all think Marcia a wise woman if she didn’t try to take on hosting so soon. But as I have said, I can’t make anyone do anything — perhaps I would have been able to had I been Stalin’s daughter — but as my father was not a steely cold-blooded murdering dictator — I’ll have to let Marcia decide what she wants to do for August and get back to everyone with a date.