Book review: "The Swans of Fifth Avenue" by Melanie Benjamin

This book review of "The Swans of Fifth Avenue" written by Melanie Benjamin is by Virgie DeNucci bookseller at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. This review was originally was published in Steamboat Today.

Staff Pick Badge
The Swans of Fifth Avenue Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345528698
Availability: Special Order
Published: Delacorte Press - January 26th, 2016

The literary scandal of the century is disclosed in this historical novel, which takes place during the ’50s and ’60s, amid the lives of the New York high society rich and famous. Prepare to be ushered into the world of fashionista lifestyles and hobnob with celebrities from all walks of life.

"The Swans of Fifth Avenue" by Melanie Benjamin

Though many famous characters appear in this book, the story is based on the life of the flamboyant novelist Truman Capote, author of “In Cold Blood,” and his select group of New York’s wealthy women, his “swans.”

Capote weasels his way into the lives of his swans, who eventually adopt him as their own little “pet.” Capote learns all their secrets as he listens in on the swans’ gossip sessions. He then betrays their confidences and friendships by exposing their intimate secrets in a popular magazine.

Though Capote is purportedly gay, his only love is Babe Paley, the “original trophy wife,” married to the founder of CBS. Although, at first glance, Capote and Babe appear an unlikely couple, it becomes clear that both characters are lonely, damaged souls who find comfort in sharing their stories and secrets.

It is apparent that, even the wealthiest, most glamorous superstars can feel like motherless children.

This is a tragic story, based on well-researched facts. By the end of this novel, I truly cared for the devastated women, as well as Capote. The novel kept me engaged long after I finished reading. I found myself wondering: Did Truman Capote betray the swans or did they betray him?