I am never without a book. When I finish one, I start another. Throughout this summer of 2018, I am writing about the books I’m reading, and only those I highly recommend. I hope you have already read The Aviator’s Wife, a novel by Melanie Benjamin, a story told through the eyes of Anne Morrow about her life with husband Charles Lindbergh. After this well-written book, I looked forward to The Swans of Fifth Avenue. I’m not sure anyone is writing better historical fiction than Melanie Benjamin where the research, characters, the sequence of events are fact, the storytelling fictionalized, This is how it is done!
The only drawback in reading this well crafted, romp through New York Society with some of its most famous, glamorous creatures and famous locales, is spending time with Truman Capote. He took me to the edge of closing the book several times because I have no interest in him at all. It has nothing to do with his homosexuality and everything to do with his strangeness. I have always found him unlikeable, and an often pathetic man. Nothing has changed my mind. Truman remains as a caricature of his sexuality, working hard at being gay to promote the stereotypes that were stumbling blocks for those who came after him. The dripping scarves, the awful cattiness of his remarks, his flighty, gossiping self.
Ah, but Melanie Benjamin’s writing takes you beyond all this objectionable wiredness to the heart of friendships that last a lifetime, the importance of the stories we carry for one another, growing older and what we fear. Benjamin writes from a lifetimes fascination with New York, its setting and people; her knowledge and heart are evident, but I am in awe of her contribution to the ongoing theme – – the value of the journey as well as its destination.
Of all the characters, I was the most interested in Willaim S. Paley, founder, CEO of CBS, advisor to President Eisenhower, the man who discovered Bing Crosby, and Edward R.Murrow. Yet, he too was taken in by Capote, as were The Swans, until he betrayed them all. The complexity of Truman Capote, who you first met as the little boy, Dill, in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, is best left there.