Swan Song

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Oh this book was total heaven! The gossip and the glamour and the deceitful two faced gossipy nature of New York society was so enjoyable to dive into, Yes it is a narcissistic, shallow world but it was a world where they were striving to save face and hold their power against all odds. Super interesting to understand more about a moment in time with real life players in an imagined world.
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I really wanted to love this tale based on true events about scandal, betrayal and gossip between the glitterati of New York. When I saw this on Netgalley and saw it had been longlisted for the Women's Prize For Fiction I was keen to give it a try. I mean just look at that cover; it evokes a sense of gossip and scandal in a past era.

The story is about Truman Capote around the time of his most controversial publication, Answered Prayers. I have to admit I haven't read any Truman Capote, but I have a second-hand copy of In Cold Blood waiting on my bedside table, and I'm determined to read it before the year is out. I thought this might be a nice warm-up for it, but it didn't really work out that way.

This book is less about what made Capote a success, and much more about his downfall. There's glimmers of the literary icon's spark and genius but these are mainly overshadowed by the repetitive derogatory language used to describe him - as a short, self-obsessed child. It's told from the point of view of his 'Swans' - the posse of glamorous socialites he brings into his inner circle, before he reveals their deepest secrets in a scandalising series of chapters for his upcoming book. This chorus of narrators and the use of 'we' was innovative, but it took me a long time to keep track of who's who, the Swans blended together into a picture of the overprivileged elite and the distant tone made it difficult to relate.

I really wanted to love this one; a tale of the glitterati of the 60s, 70s and 80s, packed with glamour, scandal and writing sounded great, but in reality there were long, dull stretches filled with ladies who lunch and superficial gossip. There were multiple times I was very close to abandoning this book, but I persevered and it does improve slightly as the Swans disassociate with Truman and it instead becomes quite a tragic story of a lonely genius at his breaking points. But it was never really truly exciting or emotional for me.

There's a lot of name-dropping throughout, and it may be that you'd appreciate this novel more than I did if you're aware of some the people mentioned before reading. To be honest, I had barely heard of any of Truman's Swans, but I did enjoy looking them up in retrospect after reading about fictional selves. The real life events this story is based in are fascinating, and the book left me captivated by Capote and wanting to learn more about his story, which is a sign of a good piece of historical fiction in itself. But for me it was a hard slog to get to the good stuff in this one; I struggled to bring myself to really like anyone involved in the story and wanted more of Capote himself rather than his Swan entourage. I wish I'd liked this one more, but I'll never stop wanting to read about eccentric literary geniuses.
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I'm sorry, I have only ever given up on one other book.  I could not finish this book, in fact I only got 20% through it.  I found it repetitive, boring, with a subject matter that I have absolutely no interest in, with very little relevance to the present day.  The old fashioned ideas of social standing and marriages.  I had not heard of Truman Capote, the American Socialite/journalist.  Rather untrustworthy and stirrer of rumour and confidences  from this report.
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I've not read anything by Truman Capote but I was intrigued when this book kept popping up on book blogs. I'm so glad I made the decision to read it as I found the story fascinating. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott explores the world of Truman Capote and his 'swans'- a collection of wealthy, well-known women of the time who considered him their close friend. He considered them friends too,  yet this did not stop him from sharing their secrets and those they had shared others. Capote wrote an article for Esquire magazine  called 'La Cote Basque 1965' which divulged some of high society's best kept secrets. The swans were horrified and ended their friendship with him. Capote spent many years trying to win them all back but he died alone and friendless nine years later. 
Swan Song contains so much, it looks at the role of the author, familial relationships, society, class, friendship, money, power and fame. I felt like I was offered a glimpse into a world I knew nothing about and one I would not want to spend a lot of time in. 
Truman Capote was clearly a complex man with many, many issues. I felt that the author did an excellent job of showing this. There were times when I felt sorry for him and others where he was completely abhorrent. 
Don't be put off if you haven't read any of Capote's books, I'm going to now that I've read this and I actually feel like I will get more from them due to having read Swan Song an finding out about his life. 

I can highly recommend Swan Song, it is insightful and captivating.
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Each one of the 'swans' was a special friend of Truman Capote, revelling in his waspish sense of humour and loving being entertained by him.  The six society woman were all horrified when Capote published an extract from his memoir in which several of them were described in unflattering terms and that secrets they had confided were displayed in public.  Deciding to get their revenge the Swans blank Capote which distresses him.  This is the story of six society women, proud, powerful and publicly known.
I absolutely loved this book.  It tells the story of Truman Capote, self-made man of words from a small town in the South who becomes friendly with the society belles of the day.  It also tells the tale of each and how Truman's fall affected them.  The writing is beautiful, offering an opening into shelves of the insecure super-rich and the infidelities of their husbands.
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Truman Capote his a fascinating character, he wrote the novels that became the films that became the backdrop to an era.  Swan Song creates fiction out the fact that he allowed a fragment of his final novel to be published that told the thinly veiled scandalous secrets of his best friends.  Seven wives of stupendously wealth men.  They responded to the betrayal by freezing him out.  Their tale is told by leaping back and forth in time.  You feel sympathy for all them and emerge feeling that you have spent time in the highest of high society that the East Coast of America had to offer in the middle of the 2oth century.  A fascinating and eye opening read.
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Enjoyed reading this well written book about high society gossip and capote’s downfall. Well written and kept me hooked until the end.
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When I picked this book up, I was completely ignorant about Capote and his Swans. A fictional account based on real people and real background events made for some intriguing narrative. I was drawn in by the original style of writing and perspective although found some of the content too gossipy despite that being precisely the point of it. It has made me want to find out more about the characters so in that sense the book was a success albeit tragic on so many levels.
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I didn't know much about Truman Capote before I picked up this novel, but I was intrigued  by the idea of telling his story through the women he was closest to - his 'Swans', a group of wealthy socialites who gave him access to their privileged lives and darkest secrets before he betrayed them by writing thinly-disguised versions of their stories.  I was interested in how biography can become fiction, although I soon realised that Capote himself was a master of blurring the lines between truth and fiction as several sections in this novel show - key events are told and retold from different perspectives and with dramatic features added, so the reader is always aware that truth is an illusion.

The novel covers the period between the 1930s (when Capote is a child) and the 1980s when Capote is living in relative exile following his controversial decision to fictionalise his Swans' lives in print.  The narrative switches between Capote himself and his friends, a collection of wealthy and influential women whose names are often familiar to us - we see Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill, Babe Paley, CZ Guest, a Churchill and the Guinesses among others.  The story then drops in so many familiar faces and names that Google is a necessary companion to this novel - Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow, Gore Vidal, John and Bobby Kennedy, Harper Lee... the list goes on as Greenberg-Jephcott draws a vivid picture of the social whirls surrounding Capote.

I know that other reviewers have mentioned that they found the book confusing and I can see this - the timeline does skip around a bit and the cast list is extensive, although I found the more I read, the clearer the distinctions between the women and their individual lives became.  Some reviewers have also said that the characters are unpleasant and unsympathetic, but I didn't find this at all.  They are undoubtedly self-absorbed, but I think that the novel shows that lives that seem gilded still have problems.  Yes, the ladies lunch and are extravagant and spoilt, but they also seem human and their lives aren't perfect.  Capote himself is a challenging figure - bitchy and clever and untrustworthy, but his background and final days still evoke pathos.  I found myself caught up in these glamorous yet often tragic lives and feel that the book will stay with me for some time.

Overall, I think this is a superb piece of writing that vividly evokes a particular historical era and social set.  I thought it was beautifully written and fascinating - I definitely want to learn more about the real lives of the characters and even read some Capote, something I now feel is a shameful gap in my reading history!  It's a long book and challenging in places, but it's also compelling and engaging.  It's been thoroughly researched and lovingly written and is definitely worth a read.
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Full of scandal, betrayal and glamour which goes hand in hand. It is rich in content a great read. 
Thank you to both NetGalley and Random House UK Cornerstone for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest unbiased review
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This is an astonishing literary fiction debut. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott has done a very clever thing - written a semi-fictionalised account of a semi-fictionalised account. Truman Capote was the trusted confidant of much of New York society, listening to their intimate worries and travelling the world with them. His inner circle became known as the Swans, and included Jackie Kennedy's sister Princess Lee Radziwill, Gloria Guinness and C.Z. Guest.  But Capote decided to write a thinly disguised book about the Swans and they saw this as the ultimate betrayal (he never finished the book, but one chapter, La Côte Basque, was published in Esquire in 1975). 

This book swaps between the viewpoints of the Swans and Capote and must have taken an enormous amount of research, It's a sumptuous sweep of a book, moving from both the peak of the friendships to the betrayal, and the voices come loud and clear through the pages. I loved it, but it's a rich multi-course meal - take your time and savour it. It's not one to be rushed. You might need to read a palette cleanser afterwards.
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I’ve given this book 3 stars but to be honest that feels generous. Whilst this author clearly has talent I found the book overlong and quite difficult to follow at times. She is clearly a great admirer of Capote, which is why I find it strange that ultimately there is so little warmth in the book. The characters, and by default the real people of this story, come across as so obnoxious that I really couldn’t care about the ‘expose’ or his expulsion from their lives. 
Capote is considered a literary genius.  I don’t know how true that is, I always feel that it is a term that’s used too readily these days. His demise into drug and alcohol abuse seemed to have started long before the expose so I can’t help thinking that the end would have been the same even if he hadn’t lost their friendship. 
I struggled to finish the book and have to give credit to the author as enough of the book was fascinating in a grotesque kind of way and there are parts that are very well written. But it’s far too long and I found the constant referral to Capote as ‘the boy’ very irritating.  I’m not sure that the life of a man who was so obsessed with cultivating friendships with the rich and famous and ones who seemed to be constantly bitching about each other warrants such attention. 
My thanks to Netgalley for this copy.
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Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott is about Truman Capote, and the glamorous high society women he called his Swans, and his betrayal of them.

Truman Capote loved gossip, and his Swans all told him secrets - theirs, and their friends, all of which they believed he would keep.  But, he used these women's lives as grist for the writing mill, changing names but little else, and told some of their deepest darkest secrets in an extract for a book he was writing call Answered Prayers.  

Swan Song is a fictional re-telling, with some of the secrets, from the point of view of the women he betrayed, as a fictional chorus of 'we'.  It has details about Truman Capote's life, friendships and love.

I really enjoyed Swan Song as it had a good mix of shock, the sadness of betrayal, and the attempt to live after.  

I've not read anything by Truman Capote (don't worry he's on the list now!), and it's funny that I've read a book about Harper Lee (Furious Hours, which I reviewed in May), and now about Capote as I never knew they were childhood friends, even if they did drift apart later in life.

This is Kelleigh Greenbery-Jephcott's debut novel, and what a start as it was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019!

Swan Song was published on 9th July 2019,  and is available to buy on Amazon  and on Waterstones.  I've found a link to where you can search for local bookshops, including independent!

I was given this book for free in return for an unbiased review, so my thanks to NetGalley and to Random House UK (the publishers) for this book.

Check out my GoodReads profile to see more reviews!
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I've heard a lot of reviewers saying that this book is quite confusing, but I really enjoyed it.  It is rich and fascinating, which stems from a great, original idea.
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Instantly transported and immersed into the life of Truman Capote and his "Swans"  I read this entire book in one flight. I couldn't wait to find out how the relationships with characters would develop, and who would hold a grudge or forgive... I've always loved Capote's writing, and writing on his life and personality but this felt far more intimate and touching than things I'd previously read. Capote is a deeply flawed and troubled man, but you root for him nonetheless, knowing that his upbringing (in part) made him that way.
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From the very first page I was hooked. The writing pulled me in, and their glamorous, scandalous world felt real enough to reach out and touch. Would definitely recommend!
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Almost pointless to review this novel as it will be covered in glory by much more eminent readers than I! But it's the 84th book I have read this year and (along with The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker) it's a standout first place favourite.  The narrative voices are sublime; I genuinely found myself hating and loving the same people at different junctures because they were so real to me and it's difficult not to empathise with characters who are so authentically flawed and jaded and joyful and lovely and ridiculous. Capote is by turns an insufferable buffoon and then suddenly, the very definition of pathos. 

I say this is my favourite book of the year, but really it's the most moved I've been by a novel since The Goldfinch. I can't recommend it highly enough. But be warned, it's a beast, it will take a while and I probably spent as much time reading online to find out more about the Swans as I did reading the novel itself. My Google search history is awash with images of of yachts, Rainbow Rooms, Colony Clubs, Guinnesses, Paleys, and full of links to Vanity Fair articles about the Black and White Ball, Studio 54, the whole central scandal and much more. They lived in interesting times! But the whole swan song idea is the most poignant and romantic central conceit I've found in a long time; I'm envious of those who have yet to begin this book. Enjoy it!
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There is one incident in this book to which I totally related. Towards the end of his famous 'black and white' ball, Capote comes across a plain young woman in a street black dress looking on as he sees it, longingly. Thinking she wants to join in, he invites her in whereupon she throws a glass of champagne at him and berates him for the waste of money. This novel left me with a similar feeling. I felt nauseated reading about so much wealth and so many vacuous lives. 

Taking an incident from Capote's life, that is when he publishes a chapter from his novel in the magazine Esquire, there is something to admire in the writing. The author does capture Capote's voice and it appears to be very well researched. The Esquire chapter throws a bomb into his social life as he has written about the lives of his 'swans' a group of socialites who hang around him, telling him secrets that they are dismayed to read about in the magazine. Almost to a woman, they shun him and this leads him into an alcoholic and drug addled decline. he can't believe he's being blacklisted by them, after all he's a writer but they turn on him viciously. There seems to be little to admire in either the 'swans' or in the writer. 

There are also things that irritate greatly in the writing. Endless descriptions of Capote's looks:. his grotesque head, his pygmy limbs, his tow headed locks, his girlish voice. Scenes from the time are revisited several times and the structure could definitely be tightened up. 

Overall, I did not like this book at all. To misquote the emperor in the film/play Amadeus 'there are simply too many words.' Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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A story of betrayal and glamour. Even if you don’t know Truman Capote you will enjoy this tale of old school intrigue. 
4/5 on goodreads
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Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
This is the fictionalised account of a book which Truman Capote wrote about the lives of the women for whom he became a confidant over a number of years.  The book when it was published in Esquire magazine caused a furore as it revealed the secrets, gathered over the course of many years, of the powerful and famous women of the time.  Truman Capote had a strange childhood and did not cut a dashing figure but he managed to place himself at the heart of this group of women and become the beneficiary of many damaging secrets.  
Although his revelations were written with pseudonyms it was obvious to everyone who the people were that he was writing about and the fallout was considerable.  The damage which the book wrought was unimaginable and although Truman claimed that they always knew they could end up in one of his stories the suicide could not have been what he intended.  
This is the story of a damaged person wreaking havoc on those who held him dear and he begins on a downward spiral consumed by drink and drugs.
This is a fascinating, well written account of the damaged lives of the privileged and I thank Net Galley and the publishers for the opportunity to read it.
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