Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (audio)

★★★★ 1/2
"The New York of the plays, the movies, the books: the New York of the New Yorker and Vanity Fair and Vogue.  It was a beacon, a spire, a beacon on top of a spire.  A light, always glowing from afar, visible even from the cornfields of Iowa, the foothills of the Dakotas, the deserts of California.  The swamps of Louisiana.  Beckoning, always beckoning.  Summoning the discontented, seducing the dreamers.  Those whose blood ran too hot, and too quickly, causing them to look about at their placid families, their staid neighbors, the graves of their ancestors and say - I'm different.  I'm special.  I'm more.  They all come to New York."

In this wonderful novel, Melanie Benjamin portrays the story (and ultimate betrayal) between Truman Capote and his "swans" - famous New York socialites of the 1960s.  These women were basically well-known because of their marriage to rich and successful men.  There jobs were basically to look gorgeous, socialize with the right people, and spend lots and lots of their husband's money.  The favorite of Capote's swans was Babe Paley, wife of CBS founder Bill Paley and the story centers around her, but intertwines the story of the other women as well.

I did not know much about these people (or this time period) before reading this book, but Benjamin brought it to life with such energy and showed not only the glamour, but the ambition and loneness and betrayal as well.  These women's lives were so far from my comprehension, but I found them extremely intriguing.  I thought that the novel was not only beautiful written and well-research, but entertaining and addicting as well.  I read it in only a few days (which is rare for me at this point in my life) and cannot wait to go back and read the author's previous novels.

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