the swans of fifth avenue by m benjamin

I never read her other book, The Aviator’s Wife, which was apparently a big hit when it debuted.  After reading this one though I’ll most likely pick it up if I see it in the bookstore next time!  The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is a fictional re-imagined depiction of Truman Capote and his group of rich, glamorous New York city girlfriends with their juicy celebrity-scale lives and scandals.  In real life, Capote did have a pack of famous friends whom he referred to as his “swans”, including Gloria Vanderbilt and Jackie O, and Capote indeed base a lot of his stories off of their scandalous.  And Benjamin writes creatively to fill in the blanks of what was publicly known to us and otherwise.  This is definitely an entertaining (and almost comic) thriller, as it involves a death and the mysteries surrounding it. Not scary but thrilling in a sense that it goes down a strange and fascinating roller coaster of emotional snippets.  It’s heavily coated with a thick layer of gossip and publicity, which keeps the pages turning fast.  It also has a hint of Great Gatsby but with a twist of the wives tales.

The pre-In Cold Blood Truman Capote moves to New York City as a nobody, only to find himself as an overnight celebrity after he befriends the rich and famous Paley’s – Babe Paley to be exact.  Babe has everything any woman (and gay men) would ever want – a millionaire’s status, graceful ageless beauty, and a husband who is widely popular among New York’s finest social circles.  I mean, I read the first couple of chapters with imaginary sounds of hopeful and glittering jazz music playing in the background.  Very descriptive with New York City’s glitz and glamour.  It’s sort of the feeling that you get from reading The Devil Wears Prada, but a notch less modern.

Babe Paley doesn’t like being a part of the fast-paced life and yearns to be out of the spotlight.  The pressure that comes with her luxurious status keeps her past and secrets deeply hidden but with resistance.  And she slowly begins to confide in Truman because she believes that he’s just as ordinarily raw underneath his larger-than-life social butterfly personality.  Truman becomes her emotional refuge. But fame transforms Truman into an attention-loving, arrogant friend who is willing to do anything to remain in the spotlight, even if it means to betray those closest to him.  Soon, with one of the secrets he spills, he ignites a huge scandal that leads to  death and a permanent taint on his reputation which pushes him out of his celebrity lifestyle immediately.

It’s a good cross of facts and fiction, especially if you’ve heard of Capote’s personal life stories.  It’s almost all believable.  Definitely a fun, easy summer read.  Happy reading!

dee’s recommendation: 4/5

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