The Swans of Fifth AvenueThe Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

This is the fictionalized story of author Truman Capote and his Swans—his inner circle of society bitches … er … wealthy, entitled, grown-up mean girls, and what happens when, instead of talking behind their backs, he reveals their secrets in Esquire Magazine.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue proves what I already knew: I don’t have to like the characters to enjoy the tale. A good thing too, because Swans is brimming with characters (as in dramatis personae. Ironic because these were real people) who have no character.

I confess I’ve always been intrigued by Capote. In my youth I spent an entire day in an air-conditioned theater watching the movie Murder By Death over and over. Not by choice but as a way to escape the heat of a hellish summer. I was both fascinated and a bit creeped out by Capote as Lionel Twain. That voice! That attitude!

Subsequent to the movie, I watched him on talk shows and realized he hadn’t been acting. He was in fact Lionel Twain. Viewing him on live TV was the proverbial car accident. One was afraid of what one might see yet couldn’t turn away.

I was never able to reconcile Capote’s flamboyant public persona with his literary genius. Maybe it’s as Benjamin suggests. Late in a life of excess, drugs, and alcohol, all Capote had left was the public facade. Sad for a man so gifted. Sad for us too.

Benjamin captures the period well, and although this is a book about the sort of superficial, disloyal people I can’t abide, that may be in part why I enjoyed it. There’s satisfaction in the veneer being ripped from the beautiful people, revealing the rot beneath. I couldn’t turn away.

Recommended, particularly for those familiar with the players.

Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the
opportunity to read and review this title.