The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Truman Babe in Capri NYSD

{“Babe Paley had only one fault—she was perfect. Otherwise, she was perfect.” – Truman Capote | Image via New York Social Diary}

I love to read, but sadly, I don’t have much time to do it. The only time that I can indulge in a little reading is usually before bed and I always wind up falling asleep a few pages in. While others may relish in the idea of Wi-Fi aboard a plane, I actually love my uninterrupted flight time. It is so rare for me to truly unplug from the technology that surrounds me on a daily basis, so anytime I fly, I use that time to catch up on my reading. I spent my last couple of flights reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. In this non-fiction novel, Benjamin paints a vivid picture of the heyday in which author and man about town, Truman Capote and his beloved swans– the fairest women of the upper echelons of society– reigned supreme.

At the beginning of his friendship with the likes of Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, C.Z. Guest, Pamela Churchill, and his most treasured swan, Babe Paley, Truman was just experiencing success as his successful novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s had been turned into a film starring Audrey Hepburn. Through the years, Truman’s star continues to rise as his friendships with Babe and the other swans grow closer. There are lavish trips to Capri aboard the Guinness yacht, jaunts to the Paley’s home in Round Hill, Jamaica, and countless martini lunches at La Cote Basque.

truman Swans of Fifth Avenue Cover

Truman manages to lure the women in and becomes their confidant. While they are amused by his charming, fun personality and propensity for salacious gossip, he is drawn to their beauty and fabulous lifestyles. Truman goes on to pen In Cold Blood, a novel about a real murder in Kansas. It is hailed as a literary triumph and the swans are happy to have a true intellectual in their tight circle. As Truman’s success grows, so does his ego, eventually leading him to throw his infamous Black and White Ball under a separate premise, when in actuality, it was a celebration of his own success.

Truman’s relationship with Babe is much closer than his friendships with the other women. Babe and Truman love each other profoundly and trust each other completely until the day that everything changed. As time goes by, the pressure to write another great book continues to mount. Afraid to fail and tempted by his true nature, Truman promises Esquire an essay, “La Cote Basque 1965” from his forthcoming novel, Answered Prayers. It proves to be Truman’s swan song, his swan dive off the cliff of his place in the sun amongst his swans.

truman and lee

{Truman Capote with Lee Radziwill at his Black and White Ball | Image via Vanity Fair}

Benjamin does an extraordinary job of pulling the reader in so that you feel as though you are experiencing it all first hand. The book is captivating. Filled with the unbelievable gossip of eternal style icons, the story is an emotional roller coaster filled with everything from tenderness and sadness at the thought of loveless marriages and deep insecurities to shock and scandal as Truman takes down his entire menagerie of swans and manages to implode in the process. If you are looking for a fascinating read based in reality, but penned by a gifted novelist, be sure to order a copy of The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

Truman Babe Paley Harpers Bazaar

{The Fairest of all the Swans: Barbara “Babe” Cushing Mortimer Paley | Image via Harper’s Bazaar}

Truman Slim Keith Harpers Bazaar

{It is rumored that Lauren Bacall’s style and look were modeled after Slim Keith | Image via Harper’s Bazaar}

CZ Guest

{C.Z. Guest Photographed at Home in Palm Beach | Image via Harper’s Bazaar}

Truman Gloria Guinness Town and Country

{Gloria Guinness at the Black and White Ball | Image via Vanity Fair}

marella agnelli

{Marella Agnelli, wife of Fiat Empresario, Gianni Agnelli |  Image via Town & Country}

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