Title: The Swans of Fifth Avenue Author: Melanie Benjamin Expected Publication Date: January 26th 2016 by Delacorte Press Format: eBook, Hardcover, 368 pages Genre: Fact-based narrative Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this
Truman Capote told his Swans upfront that he was a writer - yet they told him their stories. C.Z. Guest warned them about telling too much - yet they told their stories. So, is it any surprise that Truman would one day write a piece for Esquire magazine that would destroy the one true relationship that he had? Is it any surprise that the Swans turned their back and walked away from the man that brought joy and laughter to their dreary lives?
I had never heard this story before, New York high society during the 50’s and 60’s, with the likes of Babe Paley, Slim Keith, C.Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. They had wealth, position, beauty, power and most importantly – influential friends. What they did not have was love and a true connection to another human being. They were the quintessential arm candy for their powerful husbands. Once married, they no longer held their spouse’s interest. They were there for a purpose and that was to take care of their men and make them look good. Once a wife, you were of very little consequence as long as their food was on the table and the little pesky things in life were taken care of.
In walks Truman Capote. He brought to the Swans excitement and gossip, and in return, they unlocked doors that would never have been opened to a man like him from the proverbial “wrong side of the tracks”. On the outside, he did not appear to be dangerous; he was Babe’s (wife of CBS president William S. Paley) “True Heart”, but we all know that those that we let in can hurt us the worst.
All the names are in this book. The Hollywood elite, the movers and shakers of the time, are exposed for their solicitous activities. Truman left nothing out, and in doing so, the morning after his Black and White Ball, saw him fall from grace harder than anyone could have imagined.
He did not understand why they turned on him; he told them that he was a storywriter, why did they not understand that they were his story. Melanie Benjamin takes the reader on a fascinating trip into the golden era of Manhattan society and leaves very few stones unturned in her fact-based narrative.