In the High Peaks

Friday, March 13, 2020

Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's Daughter and Book-Buying Binges

Actually, I am planning a smattering of binge purchases in the near future.
Independent bookstores have reminded consumers that they will be the hardest hit purveyors of books during the current crisis. Makes sense. As a  result, I will order some books from my favorite independent bookseller in Lake Placid, New York. Tourism is down everywhere, and Lake Placid is deeply influenced by that market. And they are a wonderful store, with an incredibly knowledgeable staff. I hate to think of them taking a hit. I think I'll give them a call tomorrow. If you're able, do give your local bookseller a call or a visit.

When I received an email from the New York Public Library that they are closing tonight for the indefinite future(!), I imagined hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers all clamoring to borrow their ebooks online, and since that is one important source of the books I read, I immediately went online and ransacked the list of books I've been dying to read and managed to borrow two of them. So far I've borrowed Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz (2019), which is a novel about Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva. Then I discovered on Wikipedia, that a comprehensive, authoritative biography of Alliluyeva was published in 2015. So I have just returned from the NYPL website where I borrowed Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, by Rosemary Sullivan, which is over 700 pages. Whew!  I think I'll be happier overall with the biography, because from what I've read, the novel is largely fictionalized. I'll return that tomorrow. As some of us slightly older folks may remember, Alliluyeva defected to the U.S. in 1967, in the deep, dark winter of the Cold War. How well I remember the stir that caused!

I spent three hours this afternoon reading Bleaker House, which I've mentioned  in my previous post, and then  listening to 44 Charles Street by none other than Danielle Steel, which I'm enjoying immensely, while knitting. This is not a recent Steel title. I've had it in my queue on Audible since the beginning of time. And I will repeat that 1) when I'm knitting, a carefully chosen Steel novel is an excellent novel, because information tends to repeat, and 2) they most often portray fiercely independent female protagonists and tell a story that combines a struggle to succeed, with some romance, but the romance never supersedes the woman's desire to succeed. I think some readers have under-rated her, truly. I'm careful about the titles I select, but she is very far from being a fluff romance author.

***While I was writing this post, during the actual time it took to write it, our wonderful Hyde Collection Museum and my beloved Crandall Public Library has closed its doors for the forseeable future  with no end date. This hit Ken and me hard, very hard. Things are closing down. I do expect it will be for the better good, but it's difficult for all of us on the planet  regardless.


  1. I like your choice of books. The university in my city has closed physical classes until April 2, and I am retired and staying home. I am reading the biography of Clementine Churchill, titled Clementine. I see you read Lady Clementine.

    1. Yes, Terra, I did enjoy Lady Clementine, which has made me want to read the volume of her letters. Sorry that I don't have a title, and in fact, the letters may be solely between she and Winston. I am, in any case, eager to know more about her. I will look up the bio you're reading. Thanks for mentioning it.

  2. Our library system hasn't closed down....yet

    1. Hi Marg,
      I do hope your library will stay open! It's very hard when our most trusted community places must shut down. Isn't it great that we have blogs where we can communicate about books no matter what?

  3. The Santa Barbara and Goleta libraries have closed down. It does not affect us much and they do have online and remote services, I think, but it will be sad for many others. My husband will be working at home for the foreseeable future (and everyone else in his company) and I am happy about that. One less thing to worry about. I do worry about independent bookstores and restaurants having financial problems.

    On Friday I was very down. All the various sports had shut down, and I don't even watch or follow sports, but it just seemed to be symbolic of how serious the situation is. Today I have been in a better mood, aiming at being optimistic and calm. Even at the grocery store, where it was a madhouse and long, long lines. But people were polite and courteous and taking it in stride.

    1. Tracy,
      Like you, I've had my down moments with all of this. Today I'm feeling a bit better because Ken has acknowledged that he thinks he should stay away from the YMCA for a while. His pickle ball group is a rather large gathering, usually. So I'm relieved about that. (And he is 73.) And I'm glad that your husband can work from home now.
      Today I'm focusing on the things we can do here in the coming weeks. Ken is very worried about getting cabin fever. I understand that being isolated from the friends who share his interests is more of a trial for him than it is for me. We're working out a strategy of all the things we can do, or at least we're trying to.
      I agree that the cancellation of sports is going to be very painful and stressful for lots and lots of people.
      I'm most concerned about families with children--from babies to teens. With all the schools closing here, I'm worried about unsupervised teens and children, and the sorts of trouble they might get into. Most will be just fine--it's the others I worry about. And their poor parents--how stressful, really. Hopefully, the isolation strategy will work well enough so that schools can reopen in a month to six weeks.

  4. I think that is lovely that you are supporting your local independent that way! It’s a real win/win. Please share your binge with us. I love seeing what other readers buy.

    One of my library systems is still open and the other is closed. I still have to work, which is fine. I don't like working from home. But if I had to, I could read from my shelves and still have unread books two weeks later.

    We taking it one day at a time and taking deep breaths too, to remain calm. It is all too easy to get wound up and panicky.

    Audio books are tricky, aren’t they? Not every book or author works for me that way. But when you find a good one, it makes what ever I am doing, even house work, that much more fact, I sometimes look around for more work just so I can keep on listening. Hee hee.