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Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott.

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Literary Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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‘They told him everything…
He told everybody else.’ 

Swan Song is a book I have been looking forward to reading for quite some time. I purchased a copy a few months back and put it to one side to bring with me on my recent holiday. I started it on the plane and it was by my side until I turned that final page. What a riveting tale!

My all time favourite movie is the wonderful Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring the exquisite Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. This 1961 film is an adaptation of the novella of the same name from that most intriguing of writers, Truman Capote. Yet, I have still not read any of his own writing, which further enhanced my curiosity as I approached Swan Song.

Published in June 2018 by Hutchinson, Swan Song is described as ‘a dazzling debut about the line between gossip and slander, self-creation and self-preservation….a tragic story of the literary icon of his age and the beautiful, wealthy, vulnerable women he called his Swans’.

Swan Song encapsulates an era of extreme wealth, bringing to life individuals who achieved notoriety for many reasons, but who all had one thing in common, a friendship with the enigmatic Truman Capote.

1975 was the year when Truman Capote had a spectacular fall from grace, following publication of an article in Esquire magazine entitled ‘La Cote Basque 1965’. It was taken from his work in progress at the time, Answered Prayers, a novel that was never finished due to his untimely death. Truman was searching for the successes he had achieved with previous works, in particular, In Cold Blood. This was a non-fiction book which recalled the savage murder of four members of the Clutter family in 1959 and was considered by many as a striking expose of the dark side of postwar America. Truman continued to seek the fame and the accolades that followed the publication of this work, but he never achieved quite the same levels of adulation that he longed for.

In exposing the secrets of Manhattan’s rich and powerful, of the women he affectionately nicknamed his Swans, Truman Capote was the instigator of his own downfall.

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott spent years researching this novel and with a blend of fact and fiction, she creates an incredibly vivid portrayal of many iconic figure of the time. Truman Capote counted many socialites as his close friends and they in turn trusted him with their innermost thoughts and secrets. Among these women, his ‘Swans’, were Lady Slim Keith, Lee Radziwill. Marella Agnelli, Gloria Guinness, CZ Guest and Babe Paley.

In an act that could only be described as ‘social suicide’, Truman Capote’s expose on the lives of these women in Esquire, was a step too far. They lost complete faith in him, they closed ranks on him, they refused to have any interaction with him. He had shared with the world their confidences and in doing so he lost their friendship. Capote was distraught. for some reason unable to understand their sudden aversion to his company. His downward spiral from grace is cataloged throughout the novel, as we are catapulted back in time to a different world, a different era.

Having never read any books on Truman Capote before, I found Swan Song to be an extraordinary read. The attention to detail and the amount of research is evident throughout with an expressive and intense dialogue. As stated, I am not in any way an aficionado of the life and times of Truman Capote, so my review is purely subjective of my own experience in reading Swan Song. I adored the descriptions of the jet-set lifestyle. I was completely engrossed in the story, the lives, the wealth, the backlash, the fall, the domino effect and the eventual death of a man Kelleigh Greenburg-Jephcott describes as a ‘boy genius’

Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, the Sunday Times is quoted as saying that Swan Song is ‘a dazzlingly assured first novel… This clever book, with the moreish astringency of a negroni, is a perfect summer cocktail’, a description I would wholeheartedly agree with.

in 1966, Truman Capote hosted a Black & White Masked Ball in New York. This was to be his ‘piece de resistance’, the night he claimed his place among the elite of society. It was a night that was to remain forever documented in the annals of history, a night that was never to be forgotten….

‘Because of who Truman was, that evening will always be perfect – nothing could hope to rival it. But because of who he became, it can never exist again. He has taken it with him, and for that, above all else, we can never fully pardon him.
One cannot forgive the tainting of the sublime.’

Swan Song is quite a stunning debut, a whirlwind of scintillating descriptions and dramatic tales. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you do too!

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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