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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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There are currently 21 member reviews
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  • Sue J.
    This book was rather disappointing. I thought the subject matter would be interesting, and it was to some extent. There were too many characters. The focus was on Truman, Babe and Bill. So the other characters tended to detract from the three.

    I didn't expect this to be such a sad and dark read.
  • Kate G. (Bronx, NY)
    They are not like us
    I read and loved The Aviator's Wife and was interested in this new novel by Melanie Benjamin. I grew up in the Bronx and read Liz Smith starting around age 7, so I knew of all these characters. As an adult, I was just not interested in them or their self-absorbed world. Truman Capote may very well have been a literary genius and Babe Paley's great love, but Benjamin's research and writing were not enough to keep me interested in their story of betrayal. Setting the stage in the first section of the book, I felt the writing and story was repetitive; I understood they were wealthy and lived differently than the rest of us. The payoff of the end was a let down as the finale of the book mattered to the characters but not the outside world. Benjamin's mistake was thinking these characters were more intriguing than they actually were for the rest of us.
  • Janell C. (Ross, CA)
    The Swans of Fifth Avenue
    Having read La Côte Basque 1965 in the 70's I was looking forward to reading more about Capote's fall from societal grace. I found this book to be very difficult to get into but promised myself 100 pages; at just that page things began moving a bit but still very much in need of some enthusiastic editing. The characters are drawn in great detail but almost to the point of caricature. This is a fascinating subject but the writing just seemed to mimic soap opera.
  • Carole A. (Denver, CO)
    The tragedy of the swans
    Having read THE AVIATOR'S WIFE I looked forward to another offering by Melanie Benjamin. Sorry to say - I was disappointed. Beyond saddened I was left saddened by the tragedy and the shallowness of the lives of the swans and Truman. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember reading about and seeing pictures of all these "beautiful" people. While on the surface these lives and their lifestyle appeared so idyllic I felt Benjamin wrote a story that was, to me, both tragic and offensive. There is no doubt these lives were portrayed truly - it seems sad and offensive to air it all again. For myself, regarding Capote, I prefer to remember his delightful writing and not dwell on the dark side. For those loving the "tattler" magazines THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE is probably a must read. For those who enjoyed a more refined "expose" such as THE AVIATOR'S WIFE take a pass. Dear Ms Benjamin please continue writing BUT please follow the lead of your previous works.
  • Kathrin C. (Corona, CA)
    High Society. . . Shallow Waters. . .
    Since I've previously read The Aviator's Wife and Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin and enjoyed both of them immensely, I had rather high expectations for her new book. But, The Swans of Fifth Avenue left me high and dry. The underlying storyline with Truman Capote partying and socializing with elegant, beautiful and elite high society women such as Barbara "Babe" Paley, attending group gossip sessions and then later releasing their shared secrets for publication with devastating results seems to be the central lure. But getting there you will wade through long, repetitive descriptive passages on all the fashions and lifestyles of the well-known mid-twentieth century rich and famous. Yet, the book is well written and some of the characters are well drawn up. As a light, entertaining read with historic gossipy undertones it works.
  • Judy B. (Marysville, OH)
    Too much like a gossip column
    I was excited to read The Swans of Fifth Avenue because I loved Melanie Benjamin's The Aviator's Wife. I read all of The Swans because I didn't remember much about the real-life main characters, except for Truman Capote, about whom much has been written and filmed, and I wanted to know "what happened." However, even though we are told about the close, then failed, relationship between Babe Paley and Capote, I didn't feel I knew them or could empathize with their tragedies. Also, there were too many other "swans" about whom we learned even less even though we got their point of view at times, almost like a Greek chorus but not as focused or illuminating. I would wish that the book had brought the characters of Paley and Capote to life instead of spreading the story across all the "swans." I felt like I was reading People magazine. Fun to read but disappointing as fiction.
  • Patty
    The rich are different
    I requested this book because I really enjoyed reading The Aviator's Wife. While The Swans was well researched and a snap shot of the glamorous high society of 1960s New York, the main characters left me cold. Superficial, snobbish,dishonest with each other, and seemingly quite vacuous, it was difficult to even want to know them. The "swans" were the society wives with Babe Paley at their center. Enter Truman Capote into their group and the story spins. This book will likely be of interest to many readers -- and book groups will have lots to discuss --but the people didn't do a thing for me and I was happy to leave them behind when I finished reading it.
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