Susan Johnson's Reviews > The Swans of Fifth Avenue

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
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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 her. I am truly disappointed.

The story centers around Truman Capote and Babe Paley's friendship in the late 1950's/early 1960's. It is full of stories of the famous rich and famous of that time period like C.Z. Guest, Pam Churchill, Diana Vreeland and even appearances from Betty Bacall and Jackie Kennedy. They were Truman's swans who found him so amusing. He gossiped with them, flattered them and became their pet. he participated in their parties, stayed in their houses and shared their secrets.

Frankly I did not find them interesting at all. Their lives seemed so boring to me. It consisted of lunching, shopping and keeping themselves in perfect shape. They were bored out of their minds and looking for a diversion when Capote stumbled into their lives and they all adored him. It gives you a pictures of the privileges they seemingly enjoyed but it also lays out the high price they paid for it. Their subservience to men so they could stay married to the money was just horrifying. It is terrible to envision the beautiful and stylish Babe Pauley rub her husband's feet and keeping her make-up on all night so he could never see her face bare. Shudder.

Here are some examples of the gushing writing. "She (Babe) was a princess, a walking fairy tale." Truman says, "You simply can't understand how glorious they were, those girls!" Truman's supposedly last thoughts, "The splendor of belonging, being included, prized, coveted. The beauty of a perfectly tailored shirt, crisp, blinding white, just out of a box. The beauty of taffeta, the tinkling of bells, diamonds, emeralds, a pristine paper flower. Beauty."

If you are interested in the lives of the rich and famous who fill their days with shopping, eating, caring for their bodies and faces, partying and not much else then this book could be the one for you. I'm not so it wasn't the books for me.
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Reading Progress

September 25, 2015 – Shelved
September 25, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
September 26, 2015 – Started Reading
September 28, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 51 (51 new)


message 1: by Sara (new)

Sara The obsession with the rich and famous, even when they have nothing of value to contribute to society, always amazes me. Too much of it then, and too much of it now. Great review.


message 2: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Yuck!


Susan Johnson What amazes me is the number of glowing reviews. Sometimes I think I'm getting too cranky but reading about someone's make-up routine from foundation to mascara is my idea of hell.


message 4: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean Great review Susan. Made me laugh :)


Natalie This book is clearly meant for fans of those Real Housewives' shows . So disappointed !


message 6: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy I'm with you Susan. I'm not into reading about these kinds of lifestyles.


message 7: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy I'm with you Susan. I'm not into reading about these kinds of lifestyles.


message 8: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy Did you enjoy Aviators Wife?


Susan Johnson I loved it.


Kathy E. I couldn't disagree more with this review. No insult intended. I thought it did the exact opposite of being about the makeup and money. It, for me, was a conflicted love story about the struggle for being real in a plastic society and how psychologically charged it can be. It, for me, was the best book I've read in quite awhile. So heartbreaking at the end.


Susan Johnson I am glad you liked it, Kathy. I didn't get what you got out of it but I am pleased you found a book you enjoyed.


message 12: by Toni (new) - rated it 3 stars

Toni Susan, your review was better for me than the actual book. Cheers.


Susan Johnson Thanks, Toni.


Jeannette This book reminded me of an over rated gossip magazine but I will give it a 2.


Susan Johnson Me too, Jeanette.


message 16: by janet boles (new) - added it

janet boles I stumbled on your review of this book that I just started and it matched exactly my opinion of it so far. I really bought it because I 've been enamored with Truman Capoti for years and I've read all he's written and what people have written about him and the people he wrote about. Anyway, I share your opinion of this book with one exception. Having lived in the same era as these women, I well understand them. That was a time that young women today cannot fathom, let alone believe. Most middle class families thought college was a waste for a girl who would just get married and stay home to raise a family and if you didn't keep your husband, the alternatives were bleak. Your "to read" or "read" list is very different from mine but looks interesting, so if OK with you, I'd like to follow your reviews.m.e


Julia This also matches my opinion of the book. I absolutely loved "The Aviator's Wife" but was disappointed by this one.


Heidi Couldn't have said it better!


message 19: by Sue (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sue I should have read your review first!! I felt you nailed it. Ugh.


Alice I am reading it and struggling to find anything of substance. Why focus on William Paley's eating habits when so much was happening at CBS? These rich women don't seem to have much substance in this portrayal. I enjoyed Truman Capote's writing, but find his self-aggrandizement and gossip annoying.


Susan Johnson Me too.


Susan Johnson BTW, Alice, I loved your picture. Where is it taken?


message 23: by Flo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Flo Thank you for your comment. I thought I was the only one to find the book mediocre.


message 24: by Deitra (new)

Deitra I agree


Fernanda Interesting. I found it more to be about a betrayal so big that not even all the money in the world could take away the heart break. Her writing was wonderful to me.


Kimberly I am just past half way and completely agree.... ugh can't decide whether the send it to the DNF list.


Susan Johnson I wish I had.


message 28: by Ellen (new) - rated it 1 star

Ellen I think I have finally found it - the worst book ever written. The actual people in this novel are all rolling in their graves.


Susan Johnson LOL


message 30: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Long This is on my nightstand to read.... Maybe it will go back to the library unread


Susan Johnson Well, if you like a good story about shallow, insipid people, Cindy, then you might enjoy it. :)


message 32: by Ellen (new) - rated it 1 star

Ellen Well, Cindy, I think the writing is so bad, so immature, that the book is irredeemable. But read a chapter or two and see what you think.


Susan 100 pages in and Ready to quit.


Jacquie Umm.... People, relax. You fail to remember that this story was absolutely true. The author is just repeating the events of their lives. It's not a bad novel-you just don't care for their lives. Truman Capote was an obsequious , sycophant when it came to these ladies, particularly Babe. He used them to gain entry into the glamorous and prestigious world of high society . However, he became too "comfortable " in his position and he committed an act of betrayal that eventually precipitated his downfall. It's a wonderful novel.


message 35: by L (new)

L This book is crap.


Susan Johnson I agree.


Sallie I found it good. Bubble gum for the brain can be enjoyable


Susan Johnson That's why there are so many books. Each to their own. :)


message 39: by Ina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ina Levin I read it a while ago. A bit on the mean side I think.


Karen Nelson I'm with you Susan. I was shocked that it was so highly rated.


message 41: by Kara Light (new)

Kara Light I couldn't get past chapter 4. They all seem miserably priviledged!


Susan Johnson Perfect description, Kara.


message 43: by Ellen (last edited Jun 10, 2017 09:59PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Ellen Susan, I guess you didn't see my Goodreads review. I believe it says something like "Finally, I have found the worst book ever written" xo


Susan Johnson Ooh, Ellen, great summary too.


message 45: by Lina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lina Emery If you have an interest in Truman Capote and luxury, you'll love this book.


message 46: by Jane (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jane I'm about 2/3 in and still waiting for something interesting to learn.
I love Truman Capote's writing but his obsession with glamour and the super rich is boring.


Robbin I totally agree with you, Susan. The only thing I liked about it was that the cover is red, my favorite color.


Susan Johnson LOL


message 49: by Cammie (new)

Cammie Jacquie, you nailed it. You had to be around in the 50s to understand women of the 50s. It was a different world then...thank goodness. I'm of the opinion this world is a better place without Truman Capote...but Babe I wouldn't mind going out to lunch with...she at least had some depth to her.


Tabitha I am not done with the book yet - a little over halfway. But I share your opinion on the book so far. I'm pretty disappointed, as the book was recommended to me by a small bookstore owner, after I described other books and genres I like. I'm not quite sure how this book fits in with any of the books I said I liked. I was hoping for a good ending to maybe redeem it, but based on your review, sounds like I have more of the same to look forward to. :(


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