The Swans of Fifth Avenue

The Swans of Fifth Avenue

A Novel

Book - 2016
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The author of The Aviator's Wife returns with a triumphant new novel about New York's "Swans" of the 1950s--and the scandalous, headline-making, and enthralling friendship between literary legend Truman Capote and peerless socialite Babe Paley.

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 entrée 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 Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America's most sumptuous eras.

Praise for The Swans of Fifth Avenue

"This moving fictionalization brings the whole cast of characters back to vivid life. Gossipy and fun, it's also a nuanced look at the beauty and cruelty of a rarefied, bygone world." -- People (Book of the Week)

"The strange and fascinating relationship between Truman Capote and his 'swans' is wonderfully reimagined in this engrossing novel. It's a credit to Benjamin that we end up caring so much for these women of power, grace, and beauty--and for Capote, too." --Sara Gruen, New York Time s bestselling author of Water for Elephants

"A delicious tale . . . Melanie Benjamin has turned Truman Capote's greatest scandal into your next must-read book-club selection." --Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

"Like being ushered into a party where you're offered champagne and fed the sumptuous secrets of New York's elite--without having to pay the price afterward." --Vanessa Diffenbaugh , New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers

"Benjamin convincingly portrays a large cast of colorful historical figures while crafting a compelling, gossipy narrative with rich emotional depth." -- Library Journal

"The beautiful people of the fifties and sixties glitter in this riveting tale of betrayal and greed. . . . Irresistible, astonishing, and told with verve." --Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe

"The season's must-read guilty pleasure . . . Benjamin conjures, in vivid detail, a lost world." --Michael Callahan, author of Searching for Grace Kelly
Publisher: New York :, Delacorte Press, an imprint of Rand House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC,, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780345528698
Branch Call Number: FICTION
Characteristics: xvii, 341 pages ; 22 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

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abruzzo79 Feb 18, 2016

"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 wi... Read More »


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EmilyEm
Feb 01, 2018

Truman Capote and the fabulously wealthy 'women who lunch' he seduced with his charm, ingratiating himself into their lonely lives. To me, these were the backstories of the fashionable paper dolls I played with in the 1950s. Guilty pleasure.

m
mswrite
May 24, 2017

Affected, diminutive Truman Capote and tall, elegant New York socialite Barbara "Babe" Paley were a true Odd Couple, the strangest yet ultimately most compelling love story I think I've ever read. And they really did seem to love one another, to understand one another in ways no one else did, which makes Truman's betrayal almost incomprehensible. (Almost. The seeds can be found in his bleak, chaotic childhood.)

After the astounding success of his 1965 true crime masterwork "In Cold Blood," and his Black & White Ball, the fabulous, over-the-top 1966 gala to end all galas he gave ostensibly for Washington Post publisher Kay Graham but really for himself, Capote seemed ever more desperate to prove to the world (and especially himself) that he still had the gift of serious writing. In 1975 began to publish in Esquire magazine installments of another true-life story, this one a thinly-veiled, gossipy tell-all that spilled the secrets of his famous friends. Though his appalled writer friends tried to warn him, Truman blithely assumed his swans and their husbands would never recognize themselves.

He could not have been more wrong, and therein lies the wrenching climax of Melanie Benjamin's lyrical, poignant tale. Highly recommended.

c
ctkvlk
Mar 08, 2017

Fascinating look into the lives of Truman Capote and his harem. Not so interested in him but got a good history on Babe Paley and others of whom I'd heard but knew little about. It's a novelization but enough fact within to make it educational.

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Ginger_44
Jan 13, 2017

Historical fiction novels are my absolute favorite to read. This one was no exception. In fact, I felt this book was in a whole other plane compared to all the other historical fiction I've read. Similar to Villa America by Liza Klaussman, this book was about how riches and glamour and fame all eventually fall away to a sad and insecure inner existence. Impeccably written, this book was quite honestly a life-changer for me; by the time the book was finished, I was in tears and left heartbroken about these characters who only focused on wealth, beauty, and gossip throughout their life, yet finding they'd still be turned to dust at the ends of their lives like all the rest of us. The Swans of Fifth Avenue was not only written exquisitely, but also with endless literary components that are bound to engross readers. The metaphors and themes and, in a way, satire, was used so effectively. Five out of five stars. A must read.

AL_LESLEY Nov 22, 2016

A glimpse into a part of history and high living society that I never have known much about. Like the author wrote in her afterword I am very much inspired to learn more about Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness etc... and most of all to finally read In Cold Blood which I've owned but left unread for ages. I can't claim to have liked anyone, least of all Truman Capote but Melanie Benjamin's passion for her subject shows through and made this an entertaining and enlightening read.

PinesandPrejudice Oct 13, 2016

I wasn't a fan of this. I didn't see the point of their story and didn't feel sympathy or interest in these characters. I understand the time period and appreciate the fact that these stories are told but it wasn't my cup of tea. I was just waiting for it to be over -- I felt like it should have ended a lot sooner than it did.

p
pogags
Oct 03, 2016

Fantastic storytelling from the author of The Aviator's Wife, this story sweeps from one end of Fifth Ave to the other, capturing all the political, racial and cultural mores of the '50-'60s.

f
finn75
Aug 21, 2016

A glimpse into the lives of upper class women of a bygone era. The book examines class, friendship, betrayal and stardom. I can't help but feel that despite the beauty and the attention these women got their lives were painfully empty and Truman Capote despite his self awareness could not help being an attention loving fool.

c
ChaChaRobin
Aug 15, 2016

Light and fluffy, fun read, especially if you have heard of and have any curiosity about the New York "ladies who lunch" or yesteryear, and/or Truman Capote. This book is sort of like an oversized Vanity Fair article without the photos. Enjoyable and mindless.

b
BeckyR21
Jun 14, 2016

Interesting enough that it was worth keeping a few extra days, and pay the late fees, so that I could finish, but ... not so interesting that I couldn't finish it in three weeks.

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cals_readers Mar 10, 2016

It was a beacon, a spire, a beacon on top of a spire.

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