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The Swans of Fifth Avenue

by Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin X
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
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  • Marie D. (Waretown, NJ)
    Five beautiful swans - and one vicious predator
    Ms. Benjamin's portrait of Babe Paley is so touching and intimate. Babe and her two sisters, the Cushing debutantes of Boston, were born into great wealth, but they were raised to see their future worth determined only by whether or not they would marry wealthy and socially acceptable men. Jewels, furs, penthouses, yachts and gorgeous clothes were the payback for being perfect "trophy" wives to the tycoons of business, or perhaps an English lord or two!

    The Cushing girls all fulfilled their mother's dream by marrying well – and often! Babe defied her mother, however, with her choice of William Paley, a Jew, who was president of CBS during the Golden Age of Television.

    The friendship among the "swans" reveals the wonderful protectiveness and solidarity of similar birds of a feather who are required to be beautiful and perfect always. The socialites became lifelong friends with an unbreakable connection which only their entanglements with Truman Capote, the ultimate predator fox, would destroy.

    The swans unknowingly embraced the fox and allowed it to enter their world. Capote's "In Cold Blood," which I read as a young suburban mom, left me with a life long fear of rural living! It had the impact which the movie, "Jaws" has had on beach goers to this day! I recall reading the coverage of his Black and White party. Later, there would be an occasional sighting on a late night talk show and I wondered what happened to this amazing talent. After reading this book, I now know.

    I was so eager to read this story. I was born in Brooklyn and, by a twist of fate, found myself working for Look Magazine in the 1950s! This beautifully written book is about the Manhattan I knew and loved. Far removed from the society of these swans, however, I do remember having the good fortune to see Bill Paley and his beautiful Babe at a publishers event!
  • Elizabeth K. (Glenshaw, PA)
    The Swans of Fifth Avenue
    I was so drawn into the characters of this book that I thought of them even when I was not reading. They are the people of that era, the "women who lunch" in New York all dressed up to impress, each with her own personal secret. Truman Capote was engulfed with his "swans". He with his own secrets, that stem from his insecure childhood. This was an insight into the Capote we never knew.
  • Elise B. (Macedonia, OH)
    The Swans of Fifth Avenue
    This novel appealed to me on many levels. From a historical fiction perspective, the story includes many very famous socialites of the 1950s and 60s that I had never heard of. The book took me longer than usual to read because I spent half of my time reading and half of it searching people online! I was just shocked at the lifestyles of these people and how they treated their marriages and children. It contained a strong message that money does not buy happiness. As a middle aged women, I could also relate to the changes these women were seeing as their looks faded and the younger generation was taking center stage.
  • Joan B. (Ellicott City, MD)
    SWANS. People Mag Version
    What a fun read! You need to tuck this special book in your purse for the beach or a long bus ride. Truman Capote morphs from beautiful to beastly among the jewels and glamour of Fifth Avenue. His bevy of beauties is exactly as shallow as you might of society matrons mired in egocentric pursuits. This page turner has too many words, but worth the effort to keep going. It was just pure pleasure.
  • Carol S. (Pawleys Island, SC)
    Gossip Girls
    Melanie Benjamin has done an excellent job of characterization, especially Truman Capote and Babe Paley.
    Truman's collection of New York socialites, his "swans," these women of wealth and privilege appear to have it all. We are given a glimpse into their beautiful lives and the not so beautiful in their lives. When I should not care about these self-centered celebrities, I found myself sympathetic and wanting to know more about each of them. That's good writing!
  • Marian F. (Leesburg, FL)
    Sparkles like a diamond
    I followed the exploits of Truman Capote and his swans for years, reading Vanity Fair every month and gossip columns in the NYC newspapers.
    I very much enjoyed this behind-the-scenes story by Melanie Benjamin. She has, once again, captured the essence of some fascinating people.
  • Kathleen J. (Charlotte, NC)
    Love and Betrayal
    A powerful story about love and betrayal. A look into the lives of the rich and famous who created the high society of New York City in the 50 and 60s. Grace and elegance abounded as did power and wealth. Compromises were made to wed the beautiful and the wealthy. Sometimes the ending was tragic, sometimes fatal. Truman Capote and Babe Paley are names that we know from the past and their world will never glitter in that particular way again. However, this book brings that world with all of its glitter to life in a riveting and unforgettable story. A must read for those who want a peak into a bygone world of discipline and compromise to achieve a footing in high society. A book which is difficult to put down. It is a riveting story with fully developed characters. But most of all it is a story about an unusual love which can never be fulfilled.
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