The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (♦♦♦♦)

In 1966, Truman Capote was at the apex of his writing career. He had published the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, and had recently released In Cold Blood in book format. He even threw a Ball that year to which la creme de la creme of society and entertainment was invited. That year also marked the pinnacle of his social acceptance. He had befriended years before five high-society ladies--Babe Paley, Slim Hayward Keith, Pamela Hayward Churchill, Marella Agnelli, and Gloria Guinness--and their powerful husbands. He nicknamed those ladies his “swans”. Perennially on the best-dressed lists, these society ladies adopted Truman as if he were an exotic pet, sharing with him details of their intimate lives.

But darkness was lurking in the shadows. Unbeknownst to the swans, Truman was taking notes of every trespass, every comment, and revealed the sordid details of their intimate lives in the 1974 short story “La Cȏte Basque, 1965", published in Esquire magazine. What followed was one of the greatest literary scandals of NY society. Truman died a few years later ostracized by those families that had so readily accepted him in the cusp of his literary glory.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue reads like those appetizing stories in contemporary celebrity magazines like Star and Us Weekly that few people confess to reading, or liking. I read them and like them, so I enjoyed The Swans... a great deal.

In this novel the reader gets to know Truman's duplicitous nature. He was as enamored with the banal minutiae of the rich and famous such as the gorgeous clothes and even more fabulous lifestyles, as those rich personages he befriended. He was attached to the sense of belonging to a very exclusive club by virtue of being a literary prodigy.

Even if his society friends didn't have an exact measure of Truman's literary stature, they adored him for his flamboyance, his antics, his comic gossipy nature. What they didn't foresee was Truman's veiled hatred of the people he seemed to adore, his cattiness. He exposed their empty lives and empty marriages, the lack of affection towards their children, their obsessive preoccupation with beauty and appearances. In the end it was an act of betrayal on his part; taking advantage of people who had welcomed him and accepted him more or less for what he was. He paid dearly for it, but the damage was done.

DISCLAIMER: I received from the publisher a free Galley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Comments

  1. He was a fascinating personality and he could write! I can see why those who had accepted him as their "exotic pet" would feel betrayed when he wrote about their lives and secrets. Perhaps they should have been more circumspect with a writer in their midst.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's exactly how he defended himself: "What did they expect? I'm a storyteller."

      Delete
  2. You know how I felt about this one and Truman still remains one of the more fascinating literary figures for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know you liked it, Sarah, but he was catty undoubtedly. He had no right betraying those people, but their loss is our gain. We got to enjoy the juicy details of what went down.

      Delete
  3. Melanie Benjamin is cranking them out! I have not read her yet, but I do admire Capote for his writing, as Dorothy mentioned. I may have to read this one, especially since you were so impressed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, now I want to read In Cold Blood and some of his other works to size up his literary stature.
      Keep in mind that this one was very gossipy. If you don't mind that I think you'll like it.

      Delete
  4. Nice review Carmen. Thx for explaining this one; I didn't know about Capote's later life. Sounds quite duplicitous as you say of him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Susan. I know that writers write best about what they know, but it was definitely underhanded.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Kindly leave your comments and suggestions.

Popular posts from this blog

El Reino de Este Mundo by Alejo Carpentier (♦♦♦♦)

After Acts by Bryan Litfin (♦♦♦♦♦)

Snapshots - #20: Westworld, The Young Pope, and more…