Instaread Summary of The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
Five out of five stars
Historical fiction is one of the most fascinating areas of literature and one of the most difficult to do well. For it must be based on facts and for the most part, the deviations from history must stay within the bounds of the “it could have happened.”
Truman Capote was a superb writer and an openly gay man. The people that were the swans were a small group of wealthy society women in New York City in the fifties through the seventies. These were women that were expected to be beautiful and dutiful, looking good at the arm of their husband, accepting his faults and always performing to specifications at social functions.
Despite their wealth and position, the swans were emotionally vulnerable and inherently unstable. In the early years, Capote proved to be a very loyal and safe friend, a person to which they could expose their vulnerabilities. In that respect, the book is a reaffirmation of the adage that the best friend that a woman can have is a gay man. However, as Capote began to self-destruct in his later years, he turned on the swans, dragging them down as well.
From this summary, it appears that the book if far more fact than fiction, and the fiction is all a logical extrapolation of what is known. It makes the book sound very interesting in the way that the masses want to be titillated. I was reminded of something I heard during the height of the popularity of the prime-time soap “Dallas.” The comment was, “People are excited to learn that wealthy people are miserable beneath their facade of wealth and power.” In reading this summary, the reader will learn that at least in this case, the wealthy people are indeed miserable. Although I am a fan of Capote, I would not have read the book until I read the summary. Now I intend to read it.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.