“The scandalous, headline-making, and enthralling friendship between literary legend Truman Capote and peerless socialite Babe Paley.”
This is a fictional telling of the socialite “Swans” of the 1950s and early 1960s that focuses mainly on Barbara “Babe” Paley, and her friendship with Truman Capote; however it includes many other famous women such as Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Pamela Churchill. These are the fabulously wealthy ladies who lunch, dress to impress, marry often and love to gossip. The era was one of elegance and perfect outward appearance, though beneath the surface lay many insecurities. Babe in particular was always perfect – her hair, her makeup, her clothing, all of it was executed with precision to make the perfect appearance; in fact, she took great pains to never let herself be seen without all of that, even at home with her husband. William S. Paley was the head of CBS – a man of voracious appetites for both women and food. He was a notorious philanderer and Babe was his perfect trophy wife, who made sure he always had everything at his fingertips.
Into this world dropped Truman Capote, though none of the women were quite sure who introduced him first – each of them claimed ownership to that but it was clear that Truman ingratiated his way into their world and loved every minute of it. He and Babe formed a bond of platonic love, declaring that they were soulmates. Babe was lonely and Truman made her laugh, so sharing secrets with him was easy for her to do, though as this would turn out to be the worst thing she could have done.
I admit I didn’t know much about Capote, other than the books he was famous for so this was a fascinating read to find out what he was like. He was obviously talented and confident in regards to that, while at the same time longing for acceptance and reassurance that he belonged in the glamorous world he coveted. In the end, he was lost to vodka and pills, unable to produce another book and he used the secrets the women had shared with him against them.
“If he only told the best stories, dished the most delicious gossip, dropped the grandest of names. Then, perhaps. Then. Would he truly belong?”
I enjoyed this book with the peek into what it was like to be the elegant fashion icons of the time, while saddened at the reality of the cracks in the glitzy facade. These women were doing their best to stay at the top, yet at the end of the day were usually alone: “Yet at night, they took off the diamonds, and gowns and went to empty beds resigned to the fact that they were just women, after all. Women with a shelf life.”