Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Book Review - The Swans of Fifth Avenue - M. Benjamin

A glamorous, sparkling, yet very sad novel about the swinging world of the rich and famous in New York city in the 50s and 60s. Based on real people, the writer Truman Capote and his friendship with Babe Paley, fashion icon at the time, and the other "high society" ladies in that circle.
Capote is not what I would have expected at all, In this novel he is portrait-ed having different sides, the party-goer bubbling one, the scared and lonely abandoned child, the forever friend and the gossipy, selfish, sneaky traitor. 

"Tell me -What is your greatest fear?
There was a long silence. No sounds but the low hum of the pool filter, the faraway grazing of a lawn mower, and the determined "clip clip" of a gardener on the other side of some tall azalea bushes, trimming away.
"That someone will see," Babe whispered, while at the same time, Truman murmured, "That someone will find me out."
"That no one will love me," Truman added after another moment. While at the same time, Babe admitted, "And that I'll never be loved, truly."

I truly enjoyed this book, it is a bit like reading a gossip magazine about the rich and famous. It is fascinating to read about their lifestyle, so indulgent and frivolous, made of luxurious holidays, big houses, yachtes, shopping, parties, dinners, etc.It is also quite sad, as behind all the glamour, the characters all play a facade role. In particularly, Babe, as the perfect wife, the always impeccable woman that does not let her husband see her without make up nor perfect hair. And while the appearance is always perfect, underneath she is in pieces, not loved enough, not understood enough, with a husband that takes her for granted. She finds her soul mate in Truman, but in the end he will not be able to refrain himself and will ruin the most precious thing that he has in the world for his vanity and inability to keep secrets.

I read it and considered it as fiction, because I knew very little about Truman Capote beforehand and I could not discern what was the "real" story and what instead was invented. But surely this book has awakened my curiosity about Truman and the Swans. I would love to read In cold blood, the book the made Truman really famous in the literature world. I have to admit that I did not like Breakfast at Tiffany's at all.
I would recommend this book if you like New York, the 50s, a bit of glamour and a bit of sadness in your novels. 

Overall rating: 7,5    Plot: 7,5    Writing style: 7,5    Cover:  7

Title:The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Author: Melanie Benjamin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 368
Publication year: 2016


Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a prestigious husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection.
Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrĂ©e into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell.Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years

The Author:
Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age. Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good HousekeepingPeople, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. 
Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library's summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction. 
Melanie lives in Chicago with her husband, and near her two grown sons. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. When she isn't writing or speaking, she's reading. And always looking for new stories to tell.

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