NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of The Aviator’s Wife returns with a triumphant new novel about New York’s “Swans” of the 1950s—and the scandalous, headline-making, and enthralling friendship between literary legend Truman Capote and peerless socialite Babe Paley.
People’s Book of the Week • USA Today’s #1 “New and Noteworthy” Book • Entertainment Weekly’s Must List • LibraryReads Top Ten Pick
Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a prestigious husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection.
Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrée into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell.
Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years. The Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America’s most sumptuous eras.
Praise for The Swans of Fifth Avenue
“Exceptional storytelling . . . teeming with scandal, gossip and excitement.”—Harper’s Bazaar
“This moving fictionalization brings the whole cast of characters back to vivid life. Gossipy and fun, it’s also a nuanced look at the beauty and cruelty of a rarefied, bygone world.”—People
“The era and the sordid details come back to life in this jewel of a novel.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Every second of The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a treat. Author Melanie Benjamin has a blast fictionalizing the real-life relationships between Truman Capote and the grand dames of Manhattan’s high society in the ‘50s. Her descriptions of the likes of Babe Paley, Slim Keith, and Gloria Guinness—the wardrobes! the jet-setting! the parties!—are opulent and fun. Beyond the glitz and gossip, Benjamin’s imagining of the passionate friendship between the brazen Capote and the demure Paley is tender and touching, making their epic falling-out that even more dramatic.
In 1975, a clique of Manhattan socialites discover that literary lion Truman Capote revealed their dirtiest laundry to the world in a story published to great fanfare in Esquire a real-life event that inspires this novel. As the women (the metaphorical swans of the novel's title) face his perfidy, they attempt to untangle an intimacy with Capote that dates back to 1955. Though Marella Agnelli, C.Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, Pamela Churchill Harriman, and Slim Keith all feel betrayed, it's style icon Babe Paley who suffers most. Unconventional, brilliant, and voraciously ambitious, Capote seems an unlikely confidante for a woman celebrated solely for marrying, living, and looking well, but the loneliness and insecurity the two both hide forges a deep bond. Babe trusts "True Heart" enough to reveal shameful secrets, from her false teeth to her powerful husband's sordid philandering; tragically, if predictably, Capote's desperation for writing fodder proves more powerful than love. Benjamin's (The Aviator's Wife) fact-based narrative captures the era's juiciest scandals and wildest extravagances, but readers expecting the sympathetic protagonists of her earlier books may be disappointed by the diffuse and chilly cast of characters here. With an unabashed delight in bitchy gossip and lavish lifestyles, the novel's themes are sober ones: the double-edged power of telling our stories, the ways we test and punish those we love, and the psychic cost of life lived by the mantra "appearance matters most."