Title: The Swans of Fifth Avenue
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Published: January 26, 2016 by Delacorte Press
Source: Publisher via BEA
Centered on two dynamic, complicated, and compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley—this book is steeped in the glamour and perfumed and smoky atmosphere of New York’s high society. Babe Paley—known for her high-profile marriage to CBS founder William Paley and her ranking in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame—was one of the reigning monarchs of New York’s high society in the 1950s. Replete with gossip, scandal, betrayal, and a vibrant cast of real-life supporting characters, readers will be seduced by this startling new look at the infamous society swans.
Oh how I love a good book about high society, and this one packs a delicious punch! While I certainly have heard of Truman Capote, I admit I haven't read anything written by him (including In Cold Blood....gasp). I need to change that after reading this book. I need to scrounge up a copy of Le Cote Basque 1965, which is the scandalous story written by Capote exposing all the secrets of his beloved friends (his swans). The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a wonderful story, not only about the high society of the 50's and 60's, but a look at the characters lives when they were not in the spotlight. The insecurity of the swans, who knew that their beauty would only last so long. The fact that each of them just wanted to be loved and accepted as a person, not as a famous face. What happens to Truman is perhaps the most shocking, as he goes from loving friend to social pariah. This is a work of historical fiction, so while all events truly did occur, the thoughts and feelings of the people were at the liberty of the author, but I thought she did a wonderful job capturing this story.
One of my favorite quotes that I think does a great job of describing the characters:
Tell me -- What is your greatest fear?
There was a long silence. No sounds but the low hum of the pool filter, the faraway grazing of a lawn mower, and the determined "clip clip" of a gardener on the other side of some tall azalea bushes, trimming away.
"That someone will see," Babe whispered, while at the same time, Truman murmured, "That someone will find me out."
"That no one will love me," Truman added after another moment. While at the same time, Babe admitted, "And that I'll never be loved, truly."
If you love books about rich people and the lives they lead, and how those lives are not always as they seem.......pick this one up. It's fascinating.
I was thrilled to be able to meet Melanie Benjamin and hear her speak about this book, as well as her other notable works.