Rosemary Sullivan is the winner of this year's Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Non-Fiction for her biography of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin's only daughter, it was announced on Tuesday.
In their citation, the jury praised Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva as an "insightful yet empathetic portrait" of Alliluyeva, who died in Wisconsin, where she spent the last years of her life, in 2011. "Stalin's Daughter expansively intertwines history, political intrigue, espionage and domestic drama, yet Sullivan hones the episodes to one struggle: Alliluyeva's attempt to escape her father's shadow."
The $60,000 prize is the richest of its kind in Canada.
The 68-year-old Sullivan, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and an officer of the Order of Canada, is a poet and literary biographer whose books include Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwen, The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood Starting Out and By Heart: Elizabeth Smart, a Life.
The other four finalists, who each receive $5,000, were Eliott Behar for Tell it to the World: International Justice and the Secret Campaign to Hide Mass Murder in Kosovo; Douglas Coupland for Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent; Dean Jobb for Empire of Deception: From Chicago to Nova Scotia – The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated a Nation; and Lynette Loeppky for Cease: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Desire.
This year's jury was composed of Giller Prize-winning novelist and travel writer Will Ferguson, investigative journalist Stevie Cameron and writer and broadcaster JJ Lee, whose book The Measure of a Man was a finalist for the prize in 2012.