"The Swans of Fifth Avenue" (Delacorte Press), by Melanie Benjamin
Melanie Benjamin proves she's proficient in the fictional portrait genre with "The Swans of Fifth Avenue."
This tantalizing novel follows five real-life New York socialites in the 1950s and their unlikely friendship with author Truman Capote. Readers will fall into a world of glitz, glamour and the exciting life of the rich and famous. The details and conversations are so rich, you may forget you're reading a novel.
Although Capote was often labeled as odd or quirky, he enjoyed a full life of luxury thanks to an elite circle of friends he called his "Fifth Avenue Swans." Slim Keith, C.Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness and Pamela Churchill invited Capote into their lives with open arms. He was their eager little brother, their jester, their confidant and their friend. But none had the intimate relationship that he shared with fashion icon Babe Paley.
Capote flitted from swan to swan, offering to save his friends from their boring husbands through spontaneous dance parties, impromptu lunches and elaborate soirees. Inevitably, the night would always include Capote, a talented storyteller, engaging the women in tales of his recent adventures with renowned celebrities and various other socialites. The swans would reward Capote by exchanging equally enticing gossip.
As Capote's own celebrity grew, his need for attention soon outweighed his ambition to meet publishers' deadlines with his latest literary work. In order to keep the editors at bay, Capote makes the decision to base his next piece of fiction on his beloved swans. Instead of writing a loving piece on his deep friendships, Capote compiled years of hushed gossip and publicly uncovered the scathing details of the New York elite. As a result, he was ostracized from the women who held him most dear.
Benjamin uses countless historical references and great detail to create a fictional dialogue that's completely believable. She channels Paley's sentimental spirit and Capote's swan dive into darkness. It's a story about how to deal with a spotlight when you still feel invisible.