Swans of Fifth Avenue

Ignore everything I’ve said about books up until this point (this year) — THIS is my favorite book of the year BY FAR. Perhaps one of my favorites ever. Ever!

I always knew that Truman Capote was a bit of a nut, and I’m obviously quite familiar with his work, but I started reading this novel thinking it was 1950s historical fiction inspired by the kookiness of Truman Capote but not, you know, REAL. Turns out I was wrong — it’s all so, so real!

Apparently, Truman was BFF with this woman named Babe Paley. She was the It Woman in Manhattan society in the late 50s/early 60s, married to the head of CBS Bill Paley and effortlessly gorgeous in every possible way (think an old-school version of Serena van der Woodsen, but way better). She and Truman started running in the same social circles when he became an A-list author, and she felt more connected to him than her own husband, who was cheating on her in every possible way. Babe shared secrets about herself with Truman that she never dared share with her closest family and friends, and vice versa (or so she thought). The problem was, Truman loved secrets. He absolutely fed off them, and really used people to get as many of them as possible. Including Babe.

The novel actually opens with, and keeps flashing back to, a scene at formerly famous New York restaurant La Côte Basque with all of Babe’s friends sitting around talking about how much they hate Truman, and how he essentially killed someone. You know right off the bat something awful happened, and it likely happened to Babe. We then flash back to when Truman first started infiltrating the group of self-proclaimed fabulous women and how some fell for his routine and others saw right through it. The novel takes us through the most fabulous-sounding parties in the glittering gem that was Manhattan in the 50s, and the not-so-fabulous lives of those parties’ attendees. It took Babe a long time to realize what Truman was really doing all that time, and the result of his betrayal, in the novel and in real life, was a sordid tale of all of Manhattan’s most fabulous people at the time and just how ugly they truly were, inside and out, published in Esquire.

There are parts of this (unbelievably true) story that are extremely sad and don’t sit well with me — particularly the marital issues between Babe and her husband — and I now think Truman Capote was quite a sicko (I mean, he even hated Audrey!), but I absolutely devoured this book in every possible way. I almost felt like I was Truman Capote, with my somewhat sick fascination with these obviously terrible, albeit rich, people, dying for the story of what really happened. Perhaps we all have a little Truman in us…

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