The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin

Once upon a time there was a place where the socialites got up not a minute before three PM because the light was the most flattering for their complexions. That place was fifth avenue and Truman Capote was the man of the hour.

When young Truman gets a ride on CBS founder William Paley’s private plane a love triangle was born. William’s wife Babe and Truman hit it off and become what we now call BFF’s. William is not

                 Truman Capote & Babe Paley

at all offended since Truman is as queer as a three dollar bill and actually enjoys the company of this little entertaining man.

Babe introduces Truman to her even so wealthy friends: Slim Hawks, C.Z. Guest, Maria Agnelli, Gloria Guinness and Pamela Churchill, not the most shabby crowd. The ladies love to party and gossip with the little aspiring writer and he soon calls them his ‘Swans’.

A while after Truman’s great hits “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” he feels the pressure to write his promised new novel (“Answered Prayers”) and publishes the first chapter as a short story to keep the publishers at bay, named “La Cote Basque, 1965”, soon to be known as the story that ended Truman Capote.schermafbeelding-2016-12-18-om-16-24-05

“La Cote Basque, 1965” revealed all the ugliness of the upper class of Fifth avenue. The cheating, the lying and the devastating loneliness. Nobody was surprised the Swans wouldn’t talk to him anymore. Their lives behind the scenes, which they carefully hid from the rest of the world was now trash on the street. It was clear some of them were no better or even worse then the people they thought were below them.

Truman realizes he is bigger then ever, but the price is not cheap. He gets thrown back to his childhood when his mother abandoned him in hotel rooms to go out and locks the door. He feels lonely and starts drinking more and more. Truman dies a lonely death shortly after Babe who struggled with lung cancer.

I think Melanie Benjamin has done a tremendous job capturing fabulous but also very lonely 1950’s New York.

What I liked most was these people really existed! Maybe the sentences they spoke to each other were not accschermafbeelding-2016-12-18-om-16-23-47urate, but most of it was, and that is all a girl can hope for; to take a peek at the world full of cocktail parties, pearls and champagne. A time and place no girl in her right mind would want to actually live in, but reading about it is best of both worlds.

I got very intrigued by the rich and famous of the 50’s. It was the time of all the greats; Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot. This book made me realize again th
at this life isn’t for everyone.

The ones who get sucked in are most likely the ones not able to cope with the pressure of looking their best 24/7 or having their private lives found in the papers.

The end of the book made clear that it was an end of an era. But to be frank; this world we live in now is exactly the same but with a lot less class.

Curious? Check out my Bookstagram account!

The Swans of Fifth Avenue


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