The Swans Of Fifth Avenue was another historical fiction novel by Melanie Benjamin, who was able to recreate the lives of real life tragic characters. This latest novel focused on Truman Capote’s relationship with a bevy of swans, which consisted of the elite New York society matrons. The main female character here was Babe, a woman in an unhappy marriage who befriended Capote and invited him into her life. With all of Benjamin’s novels, I felt that she assigned speech patterns, clothing preferences, and overall personal traits that befitted each person whom she then used as a character. Those details make all her novels feel as if I am reading a memoir. However, Benjamin selects the most unhappy women to write about, and that makes her novels somewhat depressing to read. This was no different.
Truman Capote was portrayed as an evil little troll who had no respect for anyone, least of all Babe. His upbringing was used as the reason he felt inadequate and why he tried so desperately to have everyone adore him. Early on in the novel, I realized that I did not like him at all. The author also let the reader know in the first part of the novel that Capote betrayed Babe and her friends, and that information helped to taint my impression of him.
As for Babe, I enjoyed the glamorous aspect of her life: the parties, clothing, shopping sprees, and overall decadence. But she was a wounded woman who couldn’t be real with anyone, least of all her husband. Her pain in life was palpable and so disheartening that I had a hard time enjoying reading this. Benjamin’s main point in writing this was to examine the relationship between Babe and Capote, which meant this was a character study full of emotion rather than a plot driven novel. This chick lit novel full of drama, gossip, and cocktails was the perfect read for a rainy day.