Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review: The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Summary: 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 Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America’s most sumptuous eras. -- Delacorte Press

I forgot to review THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Melanie Benjamin! I read it on my iPad; and as a result, the book wasn't in my finished book pile. Out of sight -- out of mind... at least as far as writing a review went. Having said that, I read THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE earlier in the year and absolutely loved it! There is no doubt that this will go down as one of my favorite books of of 2016. I'm not entirely sure how I forgot to share my thoughts with you because this is one very special novel.

THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE tells the story of the friendship between Truman Capote and the Swans of Fifth Avenue, a group of New York socialites. While Capote is friendly with all of them, sharing gossip and scandal, he is especially close to the gorgeous Babe Paley. Babe is married to the head of CBS and is known for her style and grace, while Capote is best known for his books, especially his true crime story IN COLD BLOOD. The two form an immediate bond with Babe providing access to her powerful friends and Capote providing love and support to a surprisingly insecure Babe. Unfortunately, the larger-than-life Capote choses his ambitions over the friendships with Babe and her friends; and Babe feels the brunt of his betrayal.

I absolutely loved THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE! I didn't want the book to end -- and that's rare for me to say. I was impressed with Ms. Benjamin's writing, and especially the way she brought these  real-life characters and their stories to life. I especially enjoyed experiencing the glamour of New York City in the 1970s. It was just a wonderful novel on so many fronts!

One thing I found interesting about this novel was that, while I loved the story, I didn't really love the characters. I guess I liked Babe the most and had the most sympathy for her, but I still didn't feel a real affinity with her. Maybe that's because her lifestyle is so vastly different from mine. As far as the other Swans go, they were a little hard to take because of their shallowness and pettiness. And Capote... well, he was a piece of work, and I pretty much hated him for betraying Babe!

What I did love about this book was the idea of the Swans and their relationships with Capote. They were indeed larger-than-life, just like the characters themselves. The way they all shared gossip about others (and each other) was definitely sensational, and I admit that I was a little in awe of how they lived. I also appreciated how the author incorporated other famous celebrities, like Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, and even Capote's Black & White Ball into the story.

In addition, I loved how the author described all of the gorgeous clothes, fancy restaurants and apartments, as well as the glamorous vacation spots. I was so excited to find a "Following in the Footsteps of the Swans" section on Ms. Benjamin's website with pictures and links to some of the places mentioned in the novel! Make sure you check it out if you want to get an even better idea of the Swans' world.

THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE would make an outstanding book club selection. I'd love to discuss this book with all of my friends! There is a reading guide available with eighteen questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include friendship, betrayal, success, wealth, gossip, scandal, marriage, divorce, aging, stories, truth, memory, the role of women and how we hurt people. As you can see, there is so much to discuss!

I adored THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE and consider Ms. Benjamin to be a must-read author! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-copy of this novel.


Carole said...

Julie,, looks like a fab book! It would be great if you added your review to the Books You Loved: March collection over at Carole's Chatter. Cheers

Elizabeth said...

I always forget about book on my iPad.

I couldn't get into this book.

Great review.

Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved March Edition. I am in the list as #12, #14, and #44.

Happy Reading!!

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bermudaonion said...

I usually say I don't like historical fiction, but I loved this book! It's the second Benjamin book I've read and I loved them both. I want to go back and read the rest of her work.