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The Swans of Fifth Avenue

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  30,924 ratings  ·  3,652 reviews
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 pe
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 26th 2016 by Delacorte Press
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Melanie Benjamin Thank you, Lisa! I had the most empathy for Babe, but I think I identified the most with Slim. I really loved her outlook - she had the most cynical v…moreThank you, Lisa! I had the most empathy for Babe, but I think I identified the most with Slim. I really loved her outlook - she had the most cynical view of their world, I think, yet she always seemed determined to enjoy every minute.(less)
Melanie Benjamin I suppose it might have been some experience that helped in the writing, but that's not why I took the cruise. Just a happy coincidence! I wasn't very…moreI suppose it might have been some experience that helped in the writing, but that's not why I took the cruise. Just a happy coincidence! I wasn't very far in the writing of the book then.(less)

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Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars
There are times when I read a book and then the reviews, I wonder if I read the book. This is one of those books. I found this book so saccharine, so gushing, so star struck that it was barely readable to me. I almost made an appointment for the dentist as my teeth ached from so much sweetness. I can not tell you how much this book left me cold and it was only seventy five pages near the end that saved it as an one star for me. Let me be clear. I have read this author before and like h
JanB(on vacation till October)
This is a dishy, gossipy inside look into Truman Capote and his “Swans", the powerful, wealthy socialites of Manhattan in the 50s and 60s. It’s fascinating look into the glamour and high society of a bygone era. Not all that glitters is gold, and there are many sad stories behind the public façade. It's the untold stories that lies beneath the public persona that makes this such a fascinating read.

Capote had a troubled childhood, and an insatiable desire to be loved and accepted. Through his fri
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You’re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion, but I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity. Sophia Coppola

I found this book utterly fascinating, every time I picked it up I found myself completely submerged in this ephemeral world. Even though I knew of the Swans individually, I’d never heard of them referred to en masse, unaware they were part of the same circle and missed the Capote angle. I’d certainly never heard about the literary scand
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Tell me -- What is your greatest fear?

There was a long silence. No sounds but the low hum of the pool filter, the faraway grazing of a lawn mower, and the determined "clip clip" of a gardener on the other side of some tall azalea bushes, trimming away.

"That someone will see," Babe whispered, while at the same time, Truman murmured, "That someone will find me out."

"That no one will love me," Truman added after another moment. While at the same time, Babe admitted, "And that I'll never be loved, t
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

"How can we be friends if we don't gossip together? Just a little?"

To quote the immortal words of one Clairee Belcher . . . .

And if you really don’t have anything nice to say, you should probably go sit by Truman Capote.

If you take a peek at my bookshelves you probably would be a little shocked to see this being added to my to-read stack, let alone getting a 4 Star rating. You wouldn’t be wrong necessarily – I do need to give
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much! I have always been fascinated with this era; New York in the 60s; the fashion, the art, and the people....and the story of Babe and Truman. (I love stories about complicated relationships.) Years ago I had read parts of La Côte Basque, 1965, so I was somewhat familiar with the background of the story. While reading this book, I spent hours reading about the lives of the other women in Truman Capote's life, (some that were just barely mentioned in this book), the Paleys ...more
Aug 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I was in the mood for something light and fun and gossipy and this book was certainly those things. The cast of characters include William and Babe Paley, Truman Capote, Diana Vreeland, CZ Guest, Gloria Guiness, Pamela Churchill and tons of other heirs and heiresses and celebreties. But - the writing was almost childish and full of vapid psychological musings. OK, maybe a bit harsh....I did enoy the re-creation of high society New York in the 50's and 60's and the lifestyles of the rich and famo ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
So if even half of what the author reveals about Truman Capote's inability to keep a secret-- his seemingly psychological need for gossip-- is true, then Truman would absolutely love this book. Filled with tales about Truman himself and his beloved swans, the society women who were his best friends, this book is a delicious, delectable foray into their dirty little secrets. The women tell Truman things they don't even tell each other or their husbands, because their trust in Truman is implicit. ...more
Glenn Sumi
May 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
I’m not a big reader of historical novels, but I was entertained and absorbed by Melanie Benjamin’s fictional account of the friendship between novelist Truman Capote and socialite Babe Paley.

Capote, of course, was the gifted Southern-born writer of books like Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and his acknowledged true crime masterpiece, In Cold Blood. Paley was the elegant, legendary beauty who was married to one of the most powerful and wealthy men in the country, William S. P
Babe Paley, a woman of great beauty and beyond words style, who had graced the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, is searching for something more in life – longing for true love.

Truman Capote, coming from a small place and dreaming about a big world, the only way out he saw was with the writing. With bigger than life personality, he permeates the lives of Manhattan’s elite.

Truman is obsessed with Babe, with her beauty. He wants to be loved and accepted. If he can’t get her story out of her, he
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, hf, audible, usa, 2016-read
I listened to the audiobook narration by Cassandra Campbell and Paul Boehmer. Both did an excellent job at mimicking Truman Capote’s drawl, lisp and voice. I listened to Capote on YouTube to confirm if the intonations were correct renderings or perhaps exaggerations. I am satisfied that they both captured the lilt of the characters’ true voices. The chapters are split between the different narrators rather than having Campbell read the females and Boehmer the males. The speed was easy to follow ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :) (on hiatus until Oct 10)
I was really looking forward to this book since I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Benjamin’s books, “The Aviator’s Wife” and “Mrs. Tom Thumb”. I was looking for a book that would be entertaining and not too difficult for my vacation read, well mostly airplane read! I made a great choice.

Of course I had read Truman Capote’s books “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and saw the movie of that book many times. Neither my mom nor I ever really followed any of the rich and fabulous but that was all th
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
"But defiantly, they had agreed to meet at the scene of the crime - the restaurant that had spawned the literary scandal of the century, as it was already being called. Slim Hawks Hayward Keith, Marella Agnelli, Gloria Guiness, and Pamela Churchill Hayward Harriman - not a shrinking violet in the bunch - had descended upon La Cote Basque, always the place to see and be seen, especially today.
...Today, they'd opened the pages of Esquire magazine and seen themselves - not merely themselves, but th
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is a 2016 Delecorte Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m in the same boat as the author when it comes to my memories of Truman Capote. I remember him in “Murder by Death”, and have very vague memories of his making the rounds on the late night talk shows, pretty much making a fool of himself. But, later in life, I grew curious about Truman’s early life, his creation
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, publisher
I was looking forward to reading this book, but I was also a little afraid that this would be a fawning portrayal of the poor swans betrayed by the evil writer. However, I was delighted to find that the author was almost as caustic about this group of useless narcissists as Capote was, when he used their stories in his unfinished book, "Answered Prayers". All except Babe Paley treated him like a pet or court jester, until "In Cold Blood" was published and then they looked on him a little more se ...more
Carol Brill
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Melanie Benjamin masterfully brings to life Truman Capote, his exquisite friend, Babe Paley, and the circle of 1950-60’s era New York socialites Truman affectionately or derisively calls the Swans. Ultimately I didn't love, or even like, a lot of the characters and that is a testimony to Melanie Benjamin's talent in breathing life into exquisitely rounded and flawed characters.

At the heart of this gossipy fictionalized journal about real people is the obsessive adoration, between Babe and her de
Fashion is an art form, to me. The design, the illustration, the product and its nuances can be extraordinarily beautiful. Those who employ fashion artfully, in their personal style, in their wardrobes and toilette, their environments and decoration manifest a form of creativity that has had an ageless appeal.

"The Swans of Fifth Avenue" were five such outstanding women, notable in the 1950's and early 1960's, for their impeccable taste, beauty, manners and knowledge of that era's social etiquet
I can't decide whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. It's a solid 3.5. It's well written but I guess it bothered me a little that it's about real people and I didn't know if the events in the book really happened or not. I guess that's the way historical novels are. I know quite a bit about Truman Capote having read In Cold Blood and watched both films about him. And there's his relationship with Harper Lee who wrote the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, and the famous film Breakfast at Tiffany's ...more
Nov 05, 2015 rated it liked it
3 Everything Is Not As It Seems Stars...
They say the rich are different... But in the end they lash out and hurt one another just like everyone else...
Their tools to inflict pain maybe isolation and cutting gossip... but it hurts just the same.
This is an interesting fiction based on the real "beautiful people of an era" long past. It all seemed so glamorous but up close and personal... not so much.

A gifted copy provided by Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine via NetGalley for an honest re
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was very young when I first heard the stories of the fabulous fashion icon, Babe Paley and her fairy tale marriage to the head of CBS, William Paley. And of her friendship with Truman Capote, author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's. I remembered many of the events portrayed in The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel, written by Melanie Benjamin (who also wrote The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb and The Aviator's Wife). Benjamin writes a fictionalized version of these events, rooted in r ...more
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is my second book by Melanie Benjamin and like the other, I absolutely loved it! I knew of Truman Capote and that he had written "In Cold Blood" and that he was a strange looking thing that sort of talked funny as I had seen him on the talk shows growing up. I remember him clapping his hands and sitting on his feet all excited about the story he was telling. I never knew about his swans and the book that he wrote about them.

What I loved most about this book was googling those women and seei
Judy Collins
A special thank you to Random House, NetGalley, and LibraryThing early reviewers for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Best of both worlds--digital and print.

Top 50 Books of 2016!

When you think of Melanie Benjamin’s writing, and her spectacular historical novels which come alive with rich characters—reminiscent of past eras, as THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE, representative of Timeless Elegance. Classic. Society. Glamour. Passion. Elite. Literary. Cultured. Flawless. Sophisticated. Vintage.
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This book focuses on Truman Capote's relationship with Babe Paley, a socialite and her friends Slim, CZ, Gloria and Pamela known as the ''Swans" of the 1950's. Babe is married but begins a friendship with Truman. Truman loves Babe's lifestyle as much as he loves the women around her, he seems to be completely enthralled with their way of life. Eventually as the book moves on Truman will betray his friends as he lets their secrets be known to the world. I found the characters to be rather shallow ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I’ve long been fascinated by the brilliant mind of Truman Capote, both through his published literary work and through his personal appearances. I’ve always admired his intelligence. I knew he lived a flamboyant life and hobnobbed with celebrities, but I had never been interested in that part of Capote. When I first heard of this book, I was intrigued, though, especially as I wasn’t very familiar with the scandal associated with his short story, “La Cote Basque 1965”.

I was a bit put off at the b
♥ Sandi ❣
Jun 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1-have
Gossip and betrayal are the fundamentals of this novel. Set in the 1950's, Hollywood glamour, the super elite rich of New York, gossip, scandal and betrayal.

Babe Paley meets and brings Truman Capote into her inner circle of the spoiled elite, which he referred to as "the Swans". He makes friends with the wives and girlfriends, then edges into the lives of the men. Capote was then involved with "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "In Cold Blood" along with his partner, Jack. After being brought into th
This book was provided to me free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why do I keep getting accepted for the worst Netgalley books? Oh right, because they won't approve me for the ones that are actually good. Yet again I abandoned one partway through. The premise of this book sounded promising. I've read a couple of Truman Capote books and I'd love a fictional account of the man's life. Unfortunately, Melanie Benjamin wrote what seemed like a childish Truman Capote fanfic. She's prob
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-review
Such delightful fun, this book fictionalizes the relationships between Truman Capote and his swans, specifically his chief champion Babe Paley - both Truman and Babe are more human and complicated than they first appear and all serves to make the book more than just fluff, but also a very real story which made me want to learn more about both protagonists, particularly Paley, who seemed to have everything. Well worth reading for those interested in the subject matter.
Jun 10, 2022 rated it liked it
I almost put it down several times early on, because I was having trouble relating to the characters (wealthy trophy wives in the 50s.) But gradually I began to see the commonalities between them and me, and them and Truman Capote. Memoirists need to confront the challenge of how the thinly-veiled characters in their stories react to what is published.
Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves
[Re-Rated to 5 stars in 2022]

The Swans of Fifth Avenue is one of those deliciously scandalous guilty pleasures…wealthy people behaving badly at its best…with the added bonuses of the right amount of depth and writing that strikes the perfect tone. While this book is technically fiction, the major events and timelines are real with dialogue, emotions, and details imagined by the author.

Benjamin’s dialogue is snappy and her social commentary is devastatingly biting. The whole time I was reading,
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I remember seeing an odd little man dressed in all white with a cigarette holder telling stories and acting strange on the talk show circuit when I was a kid. This was Truman Capote, but what was seeing did not fully register with me until many years later when I saw his final appearance on The Dick Cavet Show on You Tube.

When I was in seventh grade, I was introduced to the first book that ever reached out and really grabbed my attention, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I am not sure when I realized w
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Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE and THE AVIATOR'S WIFE, as well as the national bestseller ALICE I HAVE BEEN, and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB and MISTRESS OF THE RITZ. Her most recent novel is the new historical fiction, THE CHILDREN'S BLIZZARD, about the real-life devastating blizzard that swept the Great Plains in 1888, up ...more

Articles featuring this book

Her Favorite Books for Truman Capote Lovers: From high society glitz to true crime realism, Capote fans will delight in these recs from the author...
8 likes · 6 comments
“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 slumbering ancestors and say— I’m different. I’m special. I’m more. They all came to New York.” 7 likes
“Sit up straight.” “Don’t fidget.” “Write a thank-you note the minute you receive a gift or return home from a party.” “Always have fresh flowers, no matter the cost.” “Clean gloves and shoes are the sign of a lady.” “Never let the help get the upper hand.” “Be discreet.” “Be above gossip.” 6 likes
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