The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

January 26, 2016 Whitney Review 0 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie BenjaminThe Swans of Fifth Avenue
Author Melanie Benjamin
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication Date January 26, 2016
Source: Netgalley

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife comes an enthralling new novel about Truman Capote’s scandalous, headline-making, and heart-wrenching friendship with Babe Paley and New York’s society “swans” of the 1950s.

Centered on two dynamic, complicated, and compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley—this book is steeped in the glamour and perfumed and smoky atmosphere of New York’s high society. Babe Paley—known for her high-profile marriage to CBS founder William Paley and her ranking in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame—was one of the reigning monarchs of New York’s high society in the 1950s. Replete with gossip, scandal, betrayal, and a vibrant cast of real-life supporting characters, readers will be seduced by this startling new look at the infamous society swans.

First Impressions

I have always enjoyed Melanie Benjamin’s novels, as retellings and fictionalized accounts of famous persons has always been a soft spot of mine. Thus, I went a little fangirl when I saw Melanie Benjamin was coming out with a new novel. In the past, the novels had focused on a female lead, this time it was a duo, Truman Capote, and Babe Paley.

Babe Paley was a name unknown to me.  Truman Capote, is the author to one of my favorite books, In Cold Blood. With the time period of this book focusing around the years around said novel’s publication, I knew The Swans of Fifth Avenue was a “must read” for me.

Impressions While Reading

Obviously, The Swans of Fifth Avenue had a large focus on Truman Capote and the rise and fall surrounding his success. As a fan (though not in an Annie Wilkes kind of way) I knew a bit about that. Although, I feel because his flamboyance was such an interesting diving board Babe and the other swans got lost in the mix.  I wished there had a little more of their characters by themselves and not always huddled around Capote.

That being said, The Swans of Fifth Avenue read like a marvelous exposé. It wasn’t serious, it dared to have fun and was a jolly good read. The descriptions of the 50s and 60s were exquisite.  I could easily picture Babe going about her everyday life. Melanie Benjamin also superbly conveyed the emotions Babe was going through.  This usually directed me into the annoyance of another character, such as her cheating husband or on again off again BFF Truman Capote.

Despite being “a jolly good read” The Swans of Fifth Avenue did have its heavier moments, particularly towards the end. It was here that the air became thick like pea soup.  I wanted to hurry along to escape the pain of characters I had come to care about. It truly was a perfect mix of ups and downs.

Final Impressions

Overall, Melanie Benjamin has created another fantastic universe in the pages of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and is a wonderful escapism with a behind the scenes look.



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