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The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Published on Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

All that Glitters...

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is a fictionalized tale of Truman Capote’s rise and fall within the inner circle of New York’s society elite, and specifically with a group of Café Society beauties particularly Babe Paley, and her friends C.Z. Guest, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, and a handful of other luminaries of the era.   

The Swans were beautiful women who were insulated from ordinary life by wealth and/or position as they won and lost the hearts and marriage beds of powerful and rich men.  They were fashionable trend setters whose faces graced the society pages and high-toned magazines such as Vogue, New Yorker, and Vanity Fair.  They appeared on international “best dressed” lists, dined in the finest restaurants, were seen at posh parties with the social elites, and lavished their homes with fine paintings and exquisite furniture.   Through breeding and ambition “The Swans” attained a very heady existence. 

Sometime during the ‘50s the Swans latched onto up-and-coming writer and boy genius, the witty, waspish, gossipy social climber, Truman Capote.  He was welcomed into their inner circle as a friend and confidante.  He entertained the Swans and they opened up to them.  He learned all the sordid secrets of their marriages, the infidelities, their sorrows, their joys, and the pain behind the illusion of their perfect lives.

Then Capote inexplicably betrayed and exposed the Swans cruelly and heartlessly in published stories in which their true identities were only flimsily veiled.   His betrayal caused at least one suicide, endless unhappiness, and marked an end to his welcome among the rich and famous.

This book gives an interesting and intimate glimpse into the lives of the ultimate mid-Century trophy wives, and the making and breaking of a celebrity author.   It is well written and highly entertaining.  It’s a  good read for book clubs. 

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