The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Melanie Benjamin. Delacorte, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-345-52869-8
In 1975, a clique of Manhattan socialites discover that literary lion Truman Capote revealed their dirtiest laundry to the world in a story published to great fanfare in Esquire—a real-life event that inspires this novel. As the women (the metaphorical swans of the novel’s title) face his perfidy, they attempt to untangle an intimacy with Capote that dates back to 1955. Though Marella Agnelli, C.Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, Pamela Churchill Harriman, and Slim Keith all feel betrayed, it’s style icon Babe Paley who suffers most. Unconventional, brilliant, and voraciously ambitious, Capote seems an unlikely confidante for a woman celebrated solely for marrying, living, and looking well, but the loneliness and insecurity the two both hide forges a deep bond. Babe trusts “True Heart” enough to reveal shameful secrets, from her false teeth to her powerful husband’s sordid philandering; tragically, if predictably, Capote’s desperation for writing fodder proves more powerful than love. Benjamin’s (The Aviator’s Wife) fact-based narrative captures the era’s juiciest scandals and wildest extravagances, but readers expecting the sympathetic protagonists of her earlier books may be disappointed by the diffuse and chilly cast of characters here. With an unabashed delight in bitchy gossip and lavish lifestyles, the novel’s themes are sober ones: the double-edged power of telling our stories, the ways we test and punish those we love, and the psychic cost of life lived by the mantra “appearance matters most.” (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/26/2015
Release date: 01/26/2016
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-101-92277-4
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-345-53975-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-101-92275-0
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4676-2223-3
Library Binding - 500 pages - 978-1-62899-883-2
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-345-52870-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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