The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (Book Review)

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (Book Review)The Swans of Fifth Avenue
Pages: 368
My Rating dnf
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife comes an enthralling new novel about Truman Capote’s scandalous, headline-making, and heart-wrenching friendship with Babe Paley and New York’s society “swans” of the 1950s.

Centered on two dynamic, complicated, and compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley—this book is steeped in the glamour and perfumed and smoky atmosphere of New York’s high society. Babe Paley—known for her high-profile marriage to CBS founder William Paley and her ranking in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame—was one of the reigning monarchs of New York’s high society in the 1950s. Replete with gossip, scandal, betrayal, and a vibrant cast of real-life supporting characters, readers will be seduced by this startling new look at the infamous society swans.

I probably should have known better than to pick up this book and give it a chance. I read Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin a few years ago and I had an insufferable time with it. The implications that Lewis Carroll was a pedophile and that there was an inappropriate relationship with the young girl that inspired Alice in Wonderland was difficult to stomach and I wasn’t sure how I would respond to the frivolous attitudes of the characters in The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

More Love:   The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (Book Review)

Now, I will admit that I didn’t love it. I read about 20% of The Swans of Fifth Avenue then I put it away. I found the characters very annoying and life is too short to spend time reading books we aren’t enjoying.

None of that is meant to be critical toward Ms. Benjamin. I can tell you that she is a great author because she writes very well, her stories are well-written, and her characters are very developed. She just doesn’t seem to write about subject matter that I personally enjoy. I find the subjects she has chosen to be tedious and frustrating to read when I’m reading for pleasure. I’ve attempted two of her books now and I have to say that despite how alluring they seem I’ll probably pass from now on.

If you enjoy the frivolous nature of the wealthy and the flamboyance of Truman Capote you’ll probably love this book. See it here.



  1. Good for you for DNFing! I made that a goal for myself last year and am carrying it over to this year….and always tend to feel relief when I finally put something aside that isn’t working.

    And – I loved Swans for the popcorn read that it is! But I’ve always had a weird fascination with Capote and wrote my high school term paper on In Cold Blood, so it made sense. He’s an intriguing character.

    • Thanks Sarah! I agree about DNFing a book. There was a time I felt like I had to finish it if I started it but now I don’t punish myself like that. I don’t stay in bad relationships. I don’t eat bad food. I don’t read bad books.

      I have a feeling I’m going to be in the intense minority when it comes to Swans. I know Benjamin is an excellent writer and she picks really fascinating topics but for some reason I don’t connect. 🙁 I just found their personalities too annoying to read about but I know most people are going to love it. Did you read Alice I Have Been by the same author? The book is amazing although the innuendos about Lewis Carroll made my stomach churn.

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