Publication Date: June 14th 2018
Well the first thing I need to say about this book is that it is STUNNING. Its probably one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever owned. The end papers are blinking gorgeous too! Just wowsers.
I have to hold my hands up and say that I have never read any of Truman Capote’s work. I’m aware he wrote Breakfast At Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood but my knowledge of the man began and ended there……..until this book that is.
Now this is a fictionalised account of how his idea for a book Answered Prayers came to be. Truman, after his acclaim for In Cold Blood finds himself in the unenviable position of suffering from writers block and turning in desperation to writing about the colourful lives and personal affairs of his elite set of socialite friends.
In two excerpts from his book, serialised in Esquire magazine Truman effectively detonates a social grenade and pays the price. Despite changing the names of the characters everyone in the New York social scene knows exactly who Truman is talking about.
Told from Truman’s humble beginnings, a childhood with his neglectful mother who was repulsed by his strangeness. A poor upbringing in Alabama to a prolific writing career and a place firmly in the middle of the high society social scene, where anybody who’s anybody just loves to have salubrious Truman along for the ride. He inveigles himself in their lives and swiftly builds confidences with them, allowing them to see Truman as a trustworthy close friend to whom they can impart their innermost secrets. They see him as kind of asexual and their husbands see that he is not a threat. He’s the life and soul of any party and larger than life and they adore him. He calls them his ‘swans’ and he basks in their adoration.
So who are these ‘Swans’? Well they are the women shown on the end papers. Gloria, C.Z, Babe, Slim, Lee and Marella. Lee is the sister of Jackie Onassis, to give you some idea of the calibre of these women. They are the creme de la creme of the social scene. Their husbands and their various mistresses either making them stronger or breaking them down all under the watchful gaze of Capote.
We get to learn about each of the women, their back story, their heartbreaks and personal lives all under the glamourous backdrop of various restaurants in New York (Cirque, The Plaza, La Cote Basque) to the chic streets of Paris and the sumptuous yachts and private jets.
I so enjoyed this book and tore through it in a weekend. It was one that I just had to get back to and if I didn’t have children and a husband I think I would have holed myself up and read it in one sitting. It’s just so glamourous and prestigious but with a real grubby, gritty edge.
I was grateful to have the images of the ‘swans’ on the endpapers and during the first third I found myself flicking back and forth and seeing just exactly who Truman was talking about. Around halfway through I had their images emblazened in my brain and really felt like I knew these women.
This was one of those books that you know is fiction rooted in truth and had me grabbing my phone and googling little tidbits about Truman and his swans trying to find out exactly how much of it was truth and how much of it was fiction. It had a real ‘peeping behind the curtains’ feel to it, (albeit very classy heavy brocade ‘drapes’ perhaps rather than curtains!) I loved finding out the various secrets of these women. Their past lives, their relationships with husbands and lovers and their individual relationships with Truman himself.
The ultimate demise of Truman was very sad (and another googleable subject to get lost in). Ultimately I absolutely loved this book. The end chapter has an almost dream like ethereal quality and the writing throughout, but most noteably in the concluding chapters is just stunning. The whole production of it, the gripping, salacious storyline and the larger than life characters. Just simply stunning in every way. (Can I say ‘stunning’ enough times?) What an absolutely marvellous world to become immersed in.
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!
I can’t leave this review without quoting one of my most favourite lines:
His legend will loom, bigger than a tit through a telescope.
And it does!
A real 5 star read for me.
Thank you as ever to the publisher and Isabelle Everington for the beautiful advanced copy.
See you soon.
Bookish Chat xxx